Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 10: Norms: Effective guides for social behavior (pp. 353360)

Ask Yourself?

In this topic

  1. How Norms Guide Behavior (pp. 353355)
    1. Norms and the environment
  2. Why Norms Guide Behavior So Effectively (pp. 355358)
    1. Enforcement: Do it, or else
    2. Internalization: It's right and proper, so I do it
    3. Consensus and support: We're all doing it, so I'll do it too
    4. Frequent activation: It came to mind (again), so I do it (again)
    5. Norms in the workplace
  3. Deindividuation: Making Group Norms More Salient (pp. 358360)
How Norms Guide Behavior
Norms and the environment

Norms must be activated before they can guide behavior.

Norms can be activated by deliberate reminders, or by subtle cues such as observations of other people's behavior.

The study by Krauss, Freedman, and Whitcup (1978) showed that people are more likely to drop litter in messy environments than in surroundings that are clean and free of trash (SP p. 354).

This research was supported by Cialdini et al. (1990) in their littering study.

Why Norms Guide Behavior So Effectively
Enforcement: Do it, or else

Norms are sometimes enforced by rewards and punishments (carrot-and-stick approach).

Using rewards and punishments is the least effective way to establish and maintain norm-consistent behavior by groups.

This is because it is not likely to bring about private acceptance of norms (only public compliance). Also, no society can afford enough monitors to enforce all norms on all its citizens all of the time.

Internalization: It's right and proper, so I do it

People follow norms because they seem right.

Acting in line with group norms is a way of maintaining a shared reality and expressing group identity, and it also makes people feel respected by others whose opinions they value.

Consensus and support: We're all doing it, so I'll do it too

Presence of our group members promotes rather than interferes with normative behavior.

Normative behavior is supported because other group members activate, model, and reinforce the appropriate behavior.

Frequent activation: It came to mind (again), so I do it (again)

Norms are enforced when they are frequently activated.

When strong associations between situations and behaviors have formed, thinking about those situations makes the appropriate behavior more likely.

Norms in the workplace

Research showed that permitting groups to establish their own norms helped in introducing changes in production procedures without loss of productivity, lowered morale, or outright hostility from workers (Coch & French, 1948) (SP pp. 357358).

Techniques that encourage employees to actively participate in decision making are now referred to as participative decision-making.

Deindividuation: Making Group Norms More Salient

Deindividuation refers to losing oneself in the crowd; the state in which group or social identity dominates personal or individual identity.

The result can be either antisocial or prosocial behavior, depending on what norms are activated by the group.

So what does this mean?

Group norms have a powerful effect on behavior. But norms can only guide behavior when those norms are activated by obvious reminders, or by subtle cues. People adhere to social norms through enforcement, internalization, the sharing of norms by other group members, and frequent activation.

Next topic

The norm of reciprocity: Treating others as they treat you

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 10 introduction
  2. Norms: Effective guides for social behavior
  3. The norm of reciprocity: Treating others as they treat you
  4. The norm of commitment: Keeping your promises
  5. The norm of obedience: Submitting to authority
  6. Rebellion and resistance: Fighting back
  7. Putting it all together: Multiple guides for behavior
  8. Chapter overview (PDF)
  9. Fill-in-the-blanks
  10. Multiple-choice questions