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Everyday people engage in social behaviors
without even consciously thinking about it because they know it is a normal
thing to do. This would be considered a “social norm” which are unwritten
rules about how to someone should behave. Social norms help guide people on how
to behave in a particular social group or culture and also could be considered
a type of conformity. As an individual moves from one culture to another, their
behaviors start to change according to the new norms they have to follow. Some
of the reasons why people conform to social norms is because it helps make
sense of and give an overall understanding of another person’s actions. People
who do not follow social norms tend to stand out and not be accepted by groups
as well as others who follow the unwritten rules do. Individuals depend on
overall wellbeing by being accepted by any time of social group which can
consists of many different things such as a school, a workplace, friendships,
family and more. Society tends to adopt many different kinds of social norms
such as language, nonverbal communication, eye contact, greetings, tattoos, and

start off, many people may wonder how social norms even came about. The
understanding of conforming to certain behaviors can start as young as two
years old. According to Rakoczy
and Schmidt (2012) children
at the age of two and three can understand that different kinds of intonation
in speech can have different meanings when saying the same words therefore
giving them a new wide range of communication. Also around the toddler age,
children begin to understand the normative factors surrounding property. A
recent study showed that when toddlers were confronted with someone treating a property
in a non-normative way, such as taking it without asking, the child would
protest whether the property belonged to them or someone else (Schmidt, Rakoczy,
and Tomasello 2013). In all of these areas, children in early stages of
development show many signs of understanding social norms in some way. Similarly,
Gampe and Daum (2018) studied whether or not and how much parental cultural values
affect a preschoolers norm reactions. The results of the study shows great
association between parental values and preschooler values and when children
are or are not imposing norms they are most likely mirroring the adults in
their life. Maternal socialization has a great impact on the shaping of
preschoolers and the norms they partake in. There are many different factors
that play a role in a toddler’s development and the individuals that are in
daily contact with them have the most impact and teach them how to respond in
social situation therefor forming a child’s social norm perception.

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            Language is how we communicate with
other people. There are many types of norms that need to be followed when it
comes to language such as knowing what you can and cannot say around certain
people. Everyday individuals use language to send important social messages
about who we are and where we come from. It is often interesting to realize how
much one can learn about a person simply from their dialect and sometimes even
a single word choice which causes one to form their own judgements about
someone. For example, knowing your audience when in conversation is an
important social nor. Someone may have a more raunchy sense of humor over the
person they are making conversation with so one may no longer want to partake
in conversation because they feel uncomfortable that one is breaking a social
norm. You would not want to swear around your boss, or make homophobic jokes
around someone who is homosexual, or talk to your mom about your sex life but
not because you are breaking and written rules, more like breaking unwritten
rules. A study was done to see how individuals would react to someone swearing
in the workplace and the results showed people were just more shocked and did
not expect it (Johnson and Lewis 2010). Swearing
is frowned upon in the work place and seems more taboo than it would if it were
in a social setting.

Nonverbal communication  

language, another form of communication not using no words, just gestures, is
another part of everyday social norms. A normal nonverbal communication that
people partake in would be smiling. When someone thinks of smiling they think
of happiness and friendliness, but that is not the case across cultures. Cultures
may shape different ideas for social behavior and as a consequence, different types
of nonverbal behavior can be seen as disrespect or just simply strange. In some
cultures such as Russia and Norway, they see smiling without a purpose is a
sign of stupidity and insanity. A study was done to see if across cultures and
gender had any impact on whether or not smiling was seen as a sign of
intelligence and trustworthiness (Krys, K., et al. 2016). The experimenters gathered data across six
continents, 44 different cultures and over 5000 respondents. To collect their
data they used the vital longevity face database and the results showed that although smiling
individuals were seemed to be more honest than non-smiling people, the idea of
smiling infecting the appearance of intelligence varied greatly across cultures
and sometimes individuals seemed to be less intelligent when smiling. The
results of their study also showed that across cultures, for the females
smiling, it increased characteristics of intelligence and honesty more than it
did for males. Interestingly enough something as little as smiling can have a
big on impact of the way someone of a different culture may view you. Gestures
such as facial expressions also are a big part of communication. One can tell
whether or not an individual is happy, sad, angry, lonely, giddy, and more all
based on a facial expression. One may seem more approachable with a relaxed
face and someone else may seem non-approachable with a tense face. A gesture
one makes every day not using words would be the use of shaking your head. In
most parts of the world when someone shakes their head, we tend to see that as
meaning “no” but if we were in India that would be a sign of agreement (Keating
1994) that is why it is important to learn about another culture before
venturing to it.


            Following smiling, there is
another small gesture that can be misconstrued if used improperly in another
culture. Eye contact may be one such
a small form of social interaction, but it should never be undermined. Here in
the Unites States, if you have good eye contact with a person, it usually means
that you are interested in the person and engaging well in conversation. People
who tend to make good eye contact seem to be more confident than others. Those
who tend to down or away from someone when engaging in conversation is
considered to be distracted or uninterested. Too much eye contact can sometimes
become uncomfortable and too little eye contact can be seen as rude. A study
was done to compare eye contact between individuals from East Asian culture and
from West European culture. The participants consisted of 20 Finnish adults and
20 Japanese adults. The experimenters used an echocardiogram and split the
participants into groups of three consisting of computer-controlled
stimulus presentation block, self-controlled stimulus presentation block, and
self-evaluative rating block. The
findings of this study suggests that people from an East Asian culture view
those who make strong eye contact more angry and unapproachable come to those
of the Western European culture (Akechi, Hironori, et al. 2013). Interesting
how something as small as how much eye contact an individual does or does not
make can affect the type of respect you are giving.


Carrying on after eye contact with another individual comes general
greetings such as handshakes, hugs, kisses, or even bowing. Knowing how
to greet someone is a very important aspect of interacting with another
individual and knowing how to properly greet someone especially from a
different culture can be vital. In most parts of America there is no formal way
of greeting another individual that may have you looked down upon if you do not
follow but that is not the case for other cultures such as Yoruba. In Yoruba
culture, whoever is first to notice someone else but initiate the greeting. If
both individuals happen to notice each other at the same time, the younger
person of the two must start the greeting first. It is seen in this culture
that when two people interact, one assumes a lower status and the other assumes
a higher status. Also in this culture, a girl must kneel down when she greets
her parents whereas a boy must prostrate to the ground (Schleicher 1997). If these greeting rules
are not followed it can come off as rude and disrespectful.


            Another part of life that may be
looked at as a social norm would be religious groups and specifically
individuals with religious tattoos. Though some religions may look down upon
marking or scaring your body, other religions embrace it. Some religious
cultures believe tattoos can be protective against evil. In the Asian cultures
relevant to Buddhism, they strongly believed that that protective powers a
tattoo may have so soldiers would tattoo their thighs to protect them in
battle. (Scheinfeld 2007). People in
Iraq tend to tattoo a dot at the of their child’s nose to relieve them
from illness. In Japan, Ainuo women would tattoo images of goddesses on their
body, specifically an aegis goddess, which gave them power to ward off evil
spirits and disease. In the Cambodian culture, to keep themselves safe from
wounds they would tattoo their whole bodies. Some cultures also believe that
tattooing their body would also save their spirit once they have passed on. A
specific culture called the Dayak tribe believed they can find light in the
afterlife with the tattoos on their hands. There is many meanings behind why
people choose to get tattoos whether it be just for fun or something pretty to
add to the body, it is interesting to learn about some people that believe
getting a tattoo can stand between life, death, and where your soul goes in the


            Lastly, not everyone may consider
cleanliness a norm but it absolutely is. People tend to assume everyone simply
follows the same bathing and cleaning guidelines as them but they lack consideration
of other cultures not being the same. In America, showering daily and using
cleaning products for clothes and around the house is essentially normal but
that is not the case for other cultures. We do not tend to associate
cleanliness with religion which is not always the case for others. In Iraq,
being clean before and after meals is a must and to be sure of this the host
servant will bring the washing station to you (Fernea and Fernea 1994). Also in
the Koran, cleanliness is related to god and dirt is seemed to be compatible
with the devil. The cleansing of the body is similar to cleansing the soul so
for Judaic women following, their menstrual cycle, need to be purified with a
ritual bath called a Mikvah. Many religions view how well you take care of
yourself physically to have something to do with how devoted you are to that
religion. A study showed that cleaning and grooming have also been linked to
social relationships as well and promote prosocial behaviors on a large scale.
(Preston and Ritter 2012).  

Strengths and Weaknesses

norms can be implicated in everyday decision making but who is to say whether
or not social norms are positive or negative. Sometimes the social norms can be
similar to peer pressure and the stress to conform to society can be damaging.
Being a college student can be considered a culture to some people and being a
collegiate sports players can be considered a culture within a culture.
Participating in collegiate sports does make you follow stricter rules than
other students but does not limit them from engaging in dangerous behaviors
such as partying, excessive drinking and drug experimenting. A study shows that
the relativity of close relationships have the biggest impact on drinking
behaviors for college students (Lewis & Paladino 2008). So when a teammate
views another teammate excessively drinking, they get the feeling that it is
the normal thing to do in that situation and tend to join.


learning about another person’s culture may be essential before unintentionally
offending those you are surrounded by. Social norms are a very relevant form of
communication and will always be a part of everyday life one way or another.
There are many strength of social norms that one may overlook simply because it
seems to be such a small everyday occurrence. Imagine living in a world where
people did not stop at stop signs, where people ate off stranger’s plates,
where people did not reserve sex talk for the bedroom, or where people scream
in a library. You may look at these people as being odd and out of place but
they are not exactly breaking any laws they are just breaking social norms.


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