We explain what social norms are and what their main characteristics are. Also, what types of standards exist and examples.

What are social norms?

Social norms are rules of behavior that are determined by society and are transmitted through education and customs. They aim to maintain order, which is key to a proper life in society.

The norms mark a model of behavior that establishes what is correct and acceptable in a group. They are usually based on values and traditions and, as society evolves, some norms also tend to change. Some examples of social norms are: not talking with your mouth full while eating, respecting the signs on public roads or addressing others with respect.

Social norms or conventions may vary from culture to culture , and what is correct in one nation may be disrespectful in another. In part, this is because norms arise from the institutions that make up a society and influence its individuals.

Characteristics of social norms

Social norms may vary from one society to another, however, they all share the following general characteristics:

  • They are universal. No company can perform adequately without following certain rules or precepts.
  • They incorporate value judgment. They set moral parameters for accepting something as right or wrong.
  • They are relative and may vary from one society to another. They are determined by the institutions and apparatuses of power.
  • They are variable in their range of importance. Non-compliance with some regulations may imply stricter sanctions than others.
  • Failure to comply may result in sanctions. Social rejection or repudiation, legal, fiscal or administrative sanctions are some of the possible consequences.
  • They are internalized by the individuals in the group. They tend to become part of the personality of individuals.

Types of standards

The most general types of norms (which help to know the behaviors considered acceptable or not) are:

  • popular customs. Those norms learned from childhood, both at school and in social groups, and can be important for social acceptance. For example, covering your face when sneezing in public or greeting people present when arriving at a place.
  • The moral standards. Those that are based on ethics to define correct or incorrect behavior. Not respecting them is offensive to most people in a culture. For example, being honest with the handling of money by giving change to someone who is not realizing if the value is correct.
  • Those considered taboos. Those rules that are very negative or offensive if they are not respected. The degree of importance of the taboo is closely linked to the customs of each culture. For example, making a joke about homosexuality is highly offensive in most cultures today, even though there are a few countries where homosexuality is still criminalized.
  • The laws . Those regulations that have been formally written at the state or national level and the fact of not respecting them can imply fines or go to jail. They are a form of social control made up of rules, rights and obligations, necessary to impose order in a community . For example, the production of medical cannabis is regulated in many countries around the world, and its free commercialization is not allowed except under strict State control .

Examples of social norms

Examples of social norms

Some examples of social norms are:

  • Giving up a seat on public transport to an older adult or person with a disability.
  • Help people with visual disabilities to cross the street.
  • Chew with your mouth closed to avoid exaggerated noise.
  • Wash hands before eating.
  • Wipe your mouth with a napkin.
  • Cover your mouth when yawning.
  • Wait for the other person to finish speaking before giving an opinion.
  • Take care of the environment and do not throw garbage on public roads.
  • Recycle or reuse waste, instead of throwing it away with the garbage.
  • Respect the physical differences of others, without ridicule or offense.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


MA student of the TransAtlantic Masters program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Political Science with a focus on European Studies. Expressed ideas are open to revision. He not only covers Technical articles but also has skills in the fields of SEO, graphics, web development and coding. .

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