Sociology Index


Conduct Norms, Social or Cultural Taboo

Norm is a culturally established rule prescribing appropriate social behaviour. Norms are relatively specific and precise and elaborate the detailed behavioural requirements that flow from more general and overarching social values.

A norm fixes the boundaries of behavior. However, a rational person only acts according to the rule only if it suits her. A norm gives an expectation of how other people act in a given situation. In order for a norm to be stable, people's actions must reconstitute the expectation without change. A set of such correct stable expectations is known as a Nash equilibrium. Thus, a stable norm must constitute a Nash equilibrium.

The norm in western society is that one should respect the dead and it is a norm that one should dress in dark colours for a funeral.

Social sanctioning is what distinguishes norms from other cultural products or social constructions such as meaning and values. Norms and normlessness are thought to affect a wide variety of human behavior.

Charismatic Code, Social Norms, and the Emergence of Cooperation on the File-Swapping Networks - Lior Strahilevitz, University of Chicago Law School
U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 162
Abstract: In this paper Professor Strahilevitz addresses the question of why individual members of peer-to-peer file-swapping networks such as Napster, Gnutella, and Kazaa consciously choose to share their unlicensed copies of copyrighted content with anonymous strangers despite the absence of economic incentives for doing so. Rational choice theorists and many social psychologists ordinarily expect that in the absence of face-to-face contact or other communication, strangers who expect neither to engage in repeat-player interactions nor to be sanctioned for free-riding will be unlikely to contribute to a public good if such cooperation is somewhat costly.

Linking social norms to efficient conservation investment in payments for ecosystem services - Xiaodong Chena, Frank Lupia, Guangming Hea and Jianguo Liua
Abstract: An increasing amount of investment has been devoted to protecting and restoring ecosystem services worldwide. The efficiency of conservation investments, including payments for ecosystem services (PES), has been found to be affected by biological, political, economic, demographic, and social factors, but little is known about the effects of social norms at the neighborhood level. As a first attempt to quantify the effects of social norms, we studied the effects of a series of possible factors on people's intentions of maintaining forest on their Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP) land plots if the program ends. GTGP is one of the world's largest PES programs and plays an important role in global conservation efforts. Our study was conducted in China's Wolong Nature Reserve, home to the world-famous endangered giant pandas and >4,500 farmers. We found that, in addition to conservation payment amounts and program duration, social norms at the neighborhood level had significant impacts on program re-enrollment, suggesting that social norms can be used to leverage participation to enhance the sustainability of conservation benefits from PES programs. Moreover, our results demonstrate that economic and demographic trends also have profound implications for sustainable conservation. Thus, social norms should be incorporated with economic and demographic trends for efficient conservation investments.

Do local tobacco regulations influence perceived smoking norms? Evidence from adult and youth surveys in Massachusetts - William L. Hamilton1, Lois Biener and Robert T. Brennan
Smoking behavior has been shown to be influenced by individuals' perceptions of social norms about smoking. This study examines whether local regulations regarding clean indoor air and youth access to tobacco are associated with residents' subsequent perceptions of smoking norms. Data came from Massachusetts surveys of adults and youths and from records of local tobacco control policies. Indices of perceived smoking norms were based on perceived smoking prevalence and perceived community acceptance of smoking. Multilevel models tested the association between perceived norms and the presence of strong local regulations in four policy domains (restaurant smoking bans, smoking restrictions in other venues, enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to youths and youth-oriented marketing restrictions). The model controlled for town voting results on a tobacco tax referendum, which served as a measure of antismoking sentiment pre-dating the regulations. Results showed that youths perceived community norms to be significantly more ‘antismoking’ if they lived in a town that had strong regulations in at least three of the four domains. For adults, having strong regulations in as few as one to two domains was associated with perceiving community norms to be significantly more antismoking. Implementing and publicizing local regulations may help shape perceptions of community smoking norms.

Search for legal norms - an impossibility result
Musharraf Rasool Cyan, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University, Atlanta
Abstract: Legal norms or laws emerge in society through a process of aggregation of individual choices. Prior to the establishment of such norms individuals live on their own, all the time attempting to fend for themselves. In this state of nature, all individuals are equal and nobody has acquired any precedence over the other. Rights or duties have yet to emerge. This is the stage where the search for legal norms begins, to lend predictability and stability to behavior and conglomerate individuals into a society. There can be many ways to describe how legal norms, which are the basic for laws, emerge in a society.
Theories of law have dealt with the subject by terming them as basic norms, primary rules or laws and laid out explanations for their formulation. In this paper I attempt to address the issue of aggregation of individual assertions into legal norms in a social choice framework.
I argue that in the pristine state individuals are all as if members of a convention with equal weights. There are two necessary and sufficient conditions for formulation of a legal norm, namely acceptability and efficacy. Acceptability is nothing but a general concurrence of all individuals that such and such norm ought to exist. In some earlier works on theory of law, acceptance is achieved by the sovereign through a threat of force. Even so general acceptability by individuals is an attribute of legal norms. The second condition that a legal norm must meet is efficacy. A legal norm can only be classed as such if it is enforceable. This too can be achieved if there is a general acceptability. Norms which are enforced through force or other coercive means achieve the status of legal norms.
Assertions are made prior to framing of legal norms. This is the stage which I term as convention. All individuals in the convention make assertions as to what a norm ought to be. The set of assertions have at least two elements. The first element is an assertion on whether a certain norm should be there or not and the second is if it ought to be enforced. In many cases, depending upon the nature of the issue, there can be more than one assertion for ought to be issues in the set. In most cases there are more than two assertions in each set. But it is necessary to include at least two where one assertion pertains to enforceability. Individuals by making assertions on all possible counts participate in the convention. In order to guarantee basic attributes of logical coherence I impose three conditions on a set of assertions, similar to other such cases in the literature. Every set of assertions conforms to completeness, consistency and deductively closure.

Are social norms associated with smoking in French university students? A survey report on smoking correlates
Lionel Riou França, Bertrand Dautzenberg, Bruno Falissard and Michel Reynaud
Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2009, 4:4doi:10.1186/1747-597X-4-4
Abstract: Background: Knowledge of the correlates of smoking is a first step to successful prevention interventions. The social norms theory hypothesises that students' smoking behaviour is linked to their perception of norms for use of tobacco. This study was designed to test the theory that smoking is associated with perceived norms, controlling for other correlates of smoking.
Conclusion: Other substance use, injunctive norms (friends' approval) and descriptive norms (friends' smoking prevalence) are associated with tobacco use.
University-based prevention campaigns should take multiple substance use into account and focus on the norms most likely to have an impact on student smoking.

Do Ethical Principles Explain Moral Norm? A Test for Consent to Organ Donation 
Authors: Blondeau, Danielle; Godin, Gaston; Gagné, Camille; Martineau, Isabelle
Abstract: Moral norm is a strong predictor of intention with respect to certain behaviors. In the context of a study of organ donor consent, the goal was to enrich the ethics construct with the help of the following three dimensions: autonomy, beneficence, and justice. The results indicated that the interrelations among the ethics variables were significant. However, the results also indicated that moral norm was influenced only by beneficence. Conducting other studies in different cultural contexts and verifying other behaviors would shed light on whether beneficence still influences moral norm. - Source: Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, Volume 9, Number 4, September 2004.