10 Characteristics Of Social Norms, What is a Social Norms


Social norms (uses or social conventions) are rules set by society. They are based on the fair conduct of the members in order to regulate the behavior of each individual.

In this way, social norms benefit the functioning of society, establishing guidelines and values that must be respected jointly by all members. In other words, social norms are guides for the coexistence of the members of a society.

These social norms of coexistence will depend on each culture and tradition in particular. Failure to comply with social norms are disapproved by society but do not entail a legal or legal conviction or punishment. Next, we will analyze what are the social norms and what are their main characteristics.

10 Characteristics Of Social Norms - What is a Social Norms

Characteristics Of Social Norms

1. Emporality and spatiality

Social norms depend on each society in particular and are traversed by the temporal factor that conditions them. For this reason, it is important to understand the customs of each country or territory, in order to understand social norms.


For example: punish a dog, beat him to death, is not penalized in many of the countries of Latin America. However, a person who has this action is socially repudiated and may even generate reprisals from the members of that society against their person for such an attitude.

2. Context

It is essential to know the context in which moral standards are given and not only the temporal or spatial issue that determines them. For example, civil wars, natural catastrophes, etc. can modify social norms in a given period.

3. One-sidedness

Social norms establish duties that citizens must comply with. That is, it is a kind of unilateral rule.

10 Characteristics Of Social Norms - What is a Social Norms

4. Penalty for non-compliance

As expressed above, the sanction is a social disapproval, although depending on the moral failure made it may be that society responds with ridicule.

5. Heteronomy

This is a characteristic external to the individual of each society, that is, the norm is imposed from society towards the individual.

6. Incoercibles

The social norms are incoercibles, that is to say, that the person who does not comply is not condemned, and the brute or penal force can not be used on her.


7. Exteriority

Social norms govern the behavior of people. This norm regulates the external behavior of each individual but does not observe the internal jurisdiction of the same. For example. If one person greets another, he or she is complying with a social norm although internally he or she may be willing to die.

8. Social resistance to changes in standards

Faced with changes in social norms, some people may find themselves more resistant to facing these social changes. Depending on the reaction of the social group, the answers can be divided into 3 large groups:

Reluctant individuals, who show hostility or dissatisfaction with the changes.
Individuals pending not to incur faults in the face of these changes. These types of people (sometimes) go so far as to exaggerate the importance of these norms.
Individuals that adapt without giving greater importance or importance.

9. Stability

While it is true that each social norm is changing, the same social norms imposed by a society are patterns of order and conduct and must be followed by each of its members. The continuity and stability of these rules over time is what guarantees harmony within society.

10 Characteristics Of Social Norms - What is a Social Norms

10. Examples of social norms

In most Western societies, some of the social norms currently in use are:

  • Give a seat to an elderly person in a public transport
  • Help a blind person to cross the street
  • Chew with your mouth closed
  • Wash your hands before and after sitting at the table
  • Wipe your mouth with a napkin
  • Yawning covering your mouth

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