Normative and Non-normative Behavior

  • What is Normal? Exploring Folkways, Mores, and Taboos
  • Norms are standards for what behaviours are acceptable, and which are not. Rules that dictate how person should behave around certain group of people – defined by that group.
    • Norms vary by culture and by country. Can change with time as individual’s behaviours change.
    • Norms are reinforced by sanctions – rewards/punishments for behaviours in accord with or against norms.
    • Formal norms are written down, informal norms are understood but less precise and have no specific punishments.
  • Can be classified into 4 groups: folkways, mores, laws, and taboos. Dictate how important the norm is and consequences for deviating.
    • Folkways – the mildest type of norm, just common rules/manners we are supposed to follow. Traditions individuals have followed for a long time, ex. opening the door, helping a person who’s dropped item, or saying thank you. Consequences are not severe/consistent. No actual punishment.
    • Mores – norms based on some moral value/belief. Generally produce strong feelings. Usually a strong reaction if more is violated. Ex. truthfulness. Don’t have serious consequences.
    • Laws – still based on right and wrong, but have formal consequences. Ex. if you lie under oath, done something morally wrong but also violate laws of court.
    • Taboos – completely wrong in any circumstance, and violation results in consequences far more extreme than a more. Often punishable by law and result in severe disgust by members of community. Ex. incest and cannibalism.
  • Perspectives on Deviance: Differential Association, Labelling Theory, and Strain Theory
  • When norm is violated, it’s referred to as deviance. Not negative, just individuals behaving differently from what society feels is normal.
    • most Americans eat meat, but someone who’s vegetarian is deviant.
  • The Theory of Differential Association states that deviance is a learned behavior that results from continuous exposure to others that violate norms and laws – learn from observation of others. Rejects norms/values and believes new behavior as norm.
    • Relationships a person forms are very important – if strong relationship to someone deviant, more likely to learn deviance than someone not.
  • Labeling Theory – a behavior is deviant if people have judged the behavior and labelled it as deviant. Depends on what’s acceptable in that society. Ex. steroids can be labelled as deviant and wrong by those who think so.
    • Primary deviance – no big consequences, reaction to deviant behavior is very mild. Individual behaves in same way without feeling wrong.
    • Secondary deviancemore serious consequences, characterized by severe negative reaction that results in stigmatizing behavior.
  • Strain Theory – if person is blocked from attaining a culturally accepted goal, may turn to deviance. Pushed to attain certain goals, but may not have legitimate ways to achieve success.


  • Aspects of Collective Behavior: Fads, Mass Hysteria, and Riots
  • What happens when large numbers of individuals behave in ways not in line with societal norms?
  • Collective behavior is not the same as group behavior, because of a few reasons. First, collective behavior is time-limited, and involves short social interactions, while groups stay together and socialize for long period of time.
    • Collectives can be open, while groups can be exclusive.
    • Collectives have loose norms, while groups have strongly defined norms.
    • Collective behavior is often driven by group dynamics, such as deindividualization. Certain group dynamics can encourage people to engage in acts they may consider wrong in different circumstances.
  • 3 types of collective behavior: fads, mass hysteria, and riots.
    • Fad is something that becomes incredibly popular very quickly, but loses popular just as quickly. Last for short period of time, but reach influence of large # of people in that time. Perceived as cool/interesting by large group of people. Good example is a “cinnamon challenge” – person has to eat large spoonful of ground cinnamon in under a minute and posting video online.
    • Mass hysteria is large # of people who experience delusions at same time, reach more people through rumours and fears. Often takes the form of panic reactions and negative news. Ex. severe weather warnings (mild form). Can also be result of psychology, when large amount of people believe they have same illness despite lack of disease – mass psychogenic illness, or epidemic hysteria. Ex. after anthrax attack in US, over 2000 false alarms.
    • Riots – characterized by large # of people who engage in dangerous behavior, such as vandalism. Chaotic and cost cities millions in damages. Individuals who act case aside societal norms and behave in very destructive ways, and violate laws. Often seen as a collective act of defiance/disapproval, due to perceived issue (ex. sports game outcome).
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