Social Norms are pattern of behavior in a particular group, community or culture that are accepted as normal behavior by the people living in these groups, communities or cultures and to which individual is expected to conform (What is social norm? definition and meaning. (n.d.)). Social Norms allow us to expect the events that will occur in a particular setting. This allows us to be prepared for a situation and reduces the amount of uncertainty. The social norms remain stable in the society as most people are taught to follow them and abide by the rules set by them. There are times when a person may not want to follow the social norms, but they are pressurized to do so by the people in their societies, the people for whom any behavior other than the social norms is abnormal and unacceptable. The groups preserve their norms without even the awareness of its members. The preservation of norms is done by socialization (the process through which individuals are taught the social norms), internalization (the process of our actions and beliefs being guided by our society norms without us being aware of it) and institutionalization (the process when social norms become embedded in social institutions).
On a personal level, social norms set by my society play an important role in shaping my behavior. From the small, negligible aspects of my behavior to the very important, big and prevalent aspects norms have a significant influence. There are tons of examples for this. In Pakistan it is a norm to greet the elders first. We being the part of this society are taught about this from the very beginning and are obligated to do so. If we fail to do so it is taken as an offense and before the others can say something about it our own parents scold us in front of everyone. We in return, to avoid the social embarrassment of getting scolded or talked badly about in front of everyone make sure to perform this ritual.
Though lately there has been a lot of freedom and support given to females to take initiatives and be bold however, our society has always promoted patriarchy and still does. I being a girl cannot stay out of house late till night because; my parents do not allow it, our society does not approve it and holds it against a girls character and above all I have been told scary stories of what happened to girls or can happen to girls if they stay out late at nights. This all shapes a person’s behavior a lot as even if I really want to stay out till late I will not because I get scared of any mishap that could happen whereas this all is not applicable for a boy in our society or even for girls in other societies that have different norms. Moreover, the roles for women and men are also separated and discriminated. The boys are never told to household stuff whereas girls in my society are always expected to do so. The example of this is how these roles are portrayed can be seen in advertisements like that of cereals and cooking oils were a woman does the cooking for the entire family and serves food to them and the male doing the office work (Vrama, D, 2018). These roles are not just specified for the grown ups but the difference between the girls and boys is there from the very beginning. Parents buy their boys car toys and girls barbie toys and then everyone assumes that girls love barbies and boys’ cars. However, the society forgets that it has made them fall in love with these respective things as from the very beginning the norms of the society are followed as a frame to mold us in.
A very good example of the impact of norms on our behavior and action is the difference between the head nod of Pakistani people and many people across the world versus the Indian head nod. It is a yes when people move nod their head vertically and no if they nod it horizontally however Indians do a side to side tilting of head for both yes and no and for anyone other than their society it is difficult to understand whether it is a yes or a no (Barry, T. I, 2016). Therefore, even these head nods are dictated by the norms of a society. Moreover, our society is a collective society and family values are deeply embedded in us. Statistics show that 83 percent of Pakistani people believe that one should look after its family before anything (G, 2019). However, this may not be the case in the western societies which are more individualistic. Parents are also dominating in eastern societies as compared to the western. A child stays under its parents umbrella even after he has crossed the age of 18. This is why the rate of dependency are higher in societies like Pakistan and arranged marriages are more customary.
There are infinite examples of instances of how the norms govern our lives nevertheless, a person may not always abide by these norms. This is known as deviance. People rebel from standards set by the societies from time to time. This is a result of their bodies being governed by the natural genetic behavior or a person’s understanding of good or bad. Yes! Genes do play an important role in shaping the behavior of a person that is why even in the same society people follow the norms but in their ways. For example, a person studies medicine as his parents wanted him to because the society thinks highly of it (this is therefore a norm) whereas the way the person studies for it is according to his natural capacity and varies from person to person. My mother has always told me to be polite because I am a girl, but I am short tempered naturally and fail to remain polite a lot of times. The extent to which people dismiss the norms vary.
A human being is not just the product of norms stated by the society. The norms and nature go hand in hand in in shaping the behavior of an individual. Norms bring in uniformity in the society and therefore lead to social cohesion. They help in people understanding each other and discriminating between good and bad. Nature is a dominating factor too and this is why stereotypes set by societies are broken. The norms of the society are so much a part of us that we cannot separate our natural instincts from that of the norms. For example, a boy acts like his father can be because they share the same genes but also because the son has grown up seeing his father and thinks of his behavior as a norm. He internalizes his father’s behavior and now it is difficult to tell whether his behavior is natural or socially constructed. The two are thus inseparable. Nature and nurture (norms) both impact human behavior and have influence on a persons personality.
- What is social norm? definition and meaning. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/social-norm.html
- Vrama, D. (2018, August 29). Sajal Ali New Ad Of Kisan Cooking Oil With Adnan Malik | Latest Pakistani Ad | 2018. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG6CBkoxDOE
- Barry, T. I. (2016, November 16). Indian Nod : Explained. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RaBxH_MKQI
- G. (2019, February 27). When to Lend a Hand: At 83%, the vast majority of Pakistanis believe before helping others, one should first look after oneself and one’s family. Retrieved from https://gallup.com.pk/when-to-lend-a-hand-at-83-the-vast-majority-of-pakistanis-believe-before-helping-others-one-should-first-look-after-oneself-and-ones-family/