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Article

Jennifer E. Dannals and Dale T. Miller

Social norms are a powerful force in organizations. While different literatures across fields have developed differing definitions and categories, social norms are commonly defined as and divided into descriptive norms, i.e., the most commonly enacted behavior, and prescriptive norms, i.e., the behavior most commonly viewed as acceptable or appropriate. Different literatures have also led to differing focuses of investigation for social norms research. Economic theorists have tended to examine social norm emergence by studying how social norms evolve to reduce negative or create positive externalities in situations. Organizational theorists and sociologists have instead focused on the social pressures which maintain social norms in groups over time, and eventually can lead group members to internalize the social norm. In contrast, social psychologists have tended to focus on how to use social norms in interventions aimed at reducing negative behaviors. Integrating these divergent streams of research proves important for future research.

Article

International norms exist as constraints on foreign policy, yet norms are also the product of the foreign policies of states and other actors. Research has demonstrated how norms restrain foreign policy choice and behavior, and even alter state conceptions of national interests. Other studies point to the weakness of norms in the face of national interests and state power. Others note that the meaning of norms and their obligations are often contested, leading to problems of norm violation and norm enforcement. As social constructions, an important consideration is how and when foreign policy promotes norms and norm diffusion in the broader international community.

Article

Joanne R. Smith

As social animals, humans are strongly influenced by the opinions and actions of those around them. Group norms are the expectations and behaviors associated with a social group, such as a nationality, an organization, or a sports team. Group norms can emerge during group interaction as group members are exposed to the opinions, or observe the actions, of fellow group members. Group norms can also emerge by comparing the attitudes and actions of the group with other groups. Leaders can also influence what is seen to be acceptable behaviors for group members to exhibit. One of the most dominant approaches to the study of group norms is the social identity approach. The social identity approach proposes that belonging to a social group provides individuals with a definition of who one is, and a description and prescription of what is involved in being a group member. A large body of research has confirmed the power of group norms to determine the form and direction of group members’ attitudes and actions, particularly those individuals strongly attached to the group, across many behavioral domains. In thinking about group norms, it is important to recognize that norms have both prescriptive (i.e., what should be done) and descriptive (i.e., what is done) elements. Research has found that group norms are most influential when aligned, but that misaligned or conflicting norms—either within the group or across multiple groups to which an individual belongs—can be particularly harmful in terms of engagement in a desired behavior. It is critical to appreciate and understand these complexities to be able to change group norms and, therefore, group members’ actions. The insight that group norms are powerful determinants of behavior has been incorporated into behavior change interventions, including so-called “nudge” interventions. However, norms-based campaigns are not always successful, and can even lead to backlash effects, often because change agents have failed to consider identity-related processes, such as the role of leaders, the source of the influence attempt, and threats arising from attempts to change one’s group. Shared identity is a key mechanism through which people internalize (new) understandings of what it means to be a group member into the self-concept, and understanding these processes may lead to more enduring change in underlying motives, beliefs, and behavior.

Article

Research in diverse fields has examined how social and gender norms, broadly defined as informal rules of acceptable behavior in a given group or society, may influence sexual and reproductive health outcomes. One set of conceptual and empirical approaches has focused on perceptions of how commonly others perform a behavior and the extent to which others support or approve of the behavior. Another set of approaches has focused on how social norms emerge from structures of gender and power that characterize the social institutions within which individuals are embedded. Interventions intended to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes by shifting social and gender norms have been applied across a wide range of populations and settings and to a diverse set of behaviors, including female genital mutilation/cutting, the use of modern contraceptive methods, and behavioral risk reduction for HIV. Norms-based intervention strategies have been implemented at multiple socioecological levels and have taken a variety of forms, including leveraging the influence of prominent individuals, using community activities or mass media to shift attitudes, and introducing legislation or policies that facilitate the changing of social norms. Recent advances in social and gender norms scholarship include the integration of previously disparate conceptual and empirical approaches into a unified multilevel framework. Although challenges remain in measuring social and gender norms and studying their impacts on sexual and reproductive health-related behaviors across cultures, the research will continue to shape policies and programs that impact sexual and reproductive health globally.

Article

Nonrealist variables (NRV) in the study of International Relations (IR) encompass the nonmaterial causal and consequential phenomena linked to interstate relations, central to which are studies of identity and norms. The two primary dimensions of the research agenda on identity are social interaction and culture. The study of social interaction considers the origins and dynamism of agency, the interests that flow from identity, and the manner in which identity influences issues such as security, allegiance, and empathy. On the other hand, research examining identity through the lens of culture reflects two distinct subinquiries: civilizational conflict, which is concerned with the impact of national culture on interstate conflict; and strategic culture, which studies how domestic and military cultures influence security policy. Meanwhile, the role of norms as they pertain to the study of IR is subdivided into two general research agendas associated with two levels of analysis in the IR subfield: the international system level and the national level norms. The analysis of norms in the scientific study of international processes (SSIP) is stronger than identity. This is due to the long-term presence of norms in the study of IR in research agendas examining alliances, reciprocity, arms races, and deterrence. Ultimately, the agent-based modeling approach may provide a methodology for scholars in SSIP through which to study the emergence and impact of identity and norms on systems and subsystems in IR.

Article

Wayne Sandholtz

In the first wave of scholarship on international norms, the primary task was to convince a skeptical discipline that norms affect domestic and international outcomes. A second phase of international norms research developed political theories of the emergence and establishment of new international norms. Transnational actor models as well as “legalization” and “rational design” approaches tested propositions on norm creation but did not theorize what happens after norms are created. General norms inevitably collide with the relentless specificity of experience. Actors constantly dispute the meaning and application of norms. The resultant arguments modify the norms being contested, and the modified norms then shape subsequent behavior and disputes. The third wave of international norms research has focused on the inherent dynamism of norms and norm systems. Norms emerge through processes of transnational advocacy and institutional design, but they also evolve through cycles of application and disputation.

Article

Water planners and policy analysts need to pay closer attention to the behavioral aspects of water use, including the use of nonprice measures such as norms, public communications, and intrinsic motivations. Empirical research has shown that people are motivated by normative as well as economic incentives when it comes to water. In fact, this research finds that after exposure to feedback about water use, adding an economic incentive (rebate) for reducing water use holds no additional power. In other cases, nonprice measures can be a way to increase the salience, and subsequently, effectiveness of any adopted pricing mechanisms. We review these empirical findings and locate them within more general literature on normative incentives for behavioral change. Given increasing water scarcity and decreasing water security in cities, policy planners need to make more room for normative incentives when designing rules for proenvironmental behavior.

Article

Sonia Palmieri

While women have succeeded in promoting a feminist agenda in some parliaments, the international research shows that this is not always possible, and accordingly, not a realistic expectation for women. Parliaments, like any institution, have specific cultural norms and practices, some of which actively work against the advancement of gender equality. Understanding the conditions under which female—and male—parliamentarians might succeed in promoting gender equality outcomes has become an important avenue for research and development practice. The focus on gender-sensitive parliaments allows for a framework to identify, and encourage the development of, those conditions. There are four key elements of a gender-sensitive parliament. First, it accepts that the responsibility to achieve gender equality, both as a policy outcome and as a process, rests with the parliament as a whole (its male and female members and staff) and with the organizations that drive substantial policy, procedural, and normative development (political parties). Second, a gender-sensitive parliament is guided by institutional policies and legal frameworks, which allow the parliament to monitor its achievements toward gender equality and allow follow-up and review. Third, a gender-sensitive parliament institutionalizes a gender mainstreaming approach through its representational, legislative, and oversight work to ensure that all the parliament’s outputs consider, and counteract, any potential discrimination against women or men, girls or boys. This element requires a reconsideration of the process and structures of the parliament, including the respective roles and capacities of members and parliamentary staff. Fourth, a gender-sensitive parliament constantly strives to eliminate institutional cultures that sanction and perpetuate discriminatory, prejudicial norms and attitudes in the workplace against women members and staff.

Article

First-generation constructivist theories argue that international norms are constitutive and regulative—that they shape state behaviors and promote international cooperation. Theories focus on the life-cycle of international norms and probe their impact on cooperation across a range of issue areas. However, a new generation of scholarship has identified the potential for contestation and challenge in international norm development and maintenance. Critical constructivist theory recognizes powerful roles for agency and alternative definitions of norm parameters and compliance. Norm contestation can occur in multiple ways. First, critical constructivists recognize the norm development process itself can involve significant struggles over the definitions and prescriptions of normative architectures. Second, state leaders sometimes challenge the definition and prescriptions that flow from established normative architectures, and they may engage in contestation over the validity or justification of the norm or application in international institutions. Third, some norms may not become internalized in standard ways at the state level due to alternative patterns of norm diffusion and localization. Fourth, norm strength also can be affected by the actions of rival advocacy coalitions in processes of contestation. While contestation represents a vibrant research program today, critics charge that it suffers from significant limitations. No single theory of norm change or contestation has emerged as dominant in the first decade of research, and scholars are just beginning to grapple with whether greater attention should be devoted to contestation during norm development or localization/diffusion challenges. In addition, the concept of norm change raises an ontological debate about whether norms are static or dynamic in nature, and how best to study the cyclical development of norms (or norm change over time). A discussion of areas for further research and empirical testing of norm contestation theories is also presented.

Article

Alex Braithwaite and Sangmi Jeong

Diffusion with respect to international politics is commonly defined as the tendency for events or behaviors occurring in one spatial unit to influence the likelihood of similar events or behaviors occurring in another spatial unit. General definitions and mechanisms of diffusion that can be thought of as somewhat ubiquitous to the broader literature of diffusion in international politics tend to focus on processes of spillover or learning/emulation. These processes are common to the adoption and diffusion of policy innovations, the spread of democracy and democratic revolutions, and the contagion of civil and international conflicts. While the nomenclatures of these literatures often differ quite significantly, considerable overlap exists in terms of the primary conceptualizations of diffusion mechanisms. Most literatures appear to identify some combination of the following mechanisms: coercion and external pressure; constructivist norm cycles; social networks and linkages; geographic proximity and demonstration effects; learning and emulation. While the study of these phenomena and mechanisms has advanced significantly in recent years, some notable areas of future growth remain. First, differentiating between learning/emulation and spillover processes still presents considerable difficulty. Second, the role of “firewalls” in limiting diffusion processes is not well understood in either general or specific cases. Third, while understanding of social and geographic spaces is now rather nuanced, it remains unclear how best to theorize and model timing in diffusion processes.

Article

Clement Fatovic

Despite scholarly disagreements over the meanings of both the rule of law and emergency, there is broad agreement that emergencies often invite and justify departures from the formal requirements and substantive values identified with the rule of law as a normative ideal. It is often argued that strict adherence to existing laws, which are typically enacted during periods of normalcy in order to prevent arbitrary forms of rule associated with tyranny, could inhibit the government’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to the often unexpected and extraordinary challenges posed by an emergency such as war or natural disaster. Consequently, the temporary use of extraordinary measures outside the law has been widely accepted both in theory and in practice as long as such measures aim to restore the normal legal and political order. However, understandings of the tension between emergency and the rule of law have undergone a significant shift during the 20th century as emergency powers increasingly get codified into law. The use of extralegal measures that violate the formal and procedural requirements of the rule of law is still considered a dangerous possibility. However, as governments have come to rely increasingly on expansions of power that technically comport with standards of legality to deal with a growing list of situations characterized as emergencies, there is concern that extraordinary exercises of power intended to be temporary are becoming part of the permanent legal and political order.

Article

Jonathan van 't Riet, Jorinde Spook, Paul E. Ketelaar, and Arief Hühn

Many of us use smartphones, and many smartphones are equipped with the Global Positioning System (GPS). This enables health promoters to send us messages on specific locations where healthy behavior is possible or where we are at risk of unhealthy behavior. Until now, the practice of sending location-based messages has been mostly restricted to commercial advertisements, most often in retail settings. However, opportunities for health promotion practice are vast. For one, location-based messages can be used to complement environmental interventions, where the environment is changed to promote health behavior. Second, location-based messages incorporate opportunities to tailor these messages to individual characteristics of the recipient, increasing perceived relevance. Finally, location-based messages offer the distinct possibility to communicate context-dependent social norm information. Five preliminary studies tested the effects of location-based messages targeting food choice. The results suggest that sending location-based messages is feasible and can be effective. Future studies should explore which messages are most effective under which circumstances.

Article

Becky R. Ford

The term political correctness (PC) has been used since the 1930s in Maoist China, where it meant fall in line with the Communist Party’s politics. In the 1980s, there was a revival of the use of the term. For some, PC now primes the prohibition of speech that is seen as derogatory toward historically marginalized groups, and well as the encouragement of more multicultural perspectives. Others see PC in a pejorative sense, thinking of liberal extremism. Since the start of the liberal PC movement in the 1980s, people ranging from sensationalist conservative politicians to serious and thoughtful academics have raised concerns about the negative consequences of PC. Those in support of PC claim that using more inclusive language representing more diverse voices in college classrooms helps improve the lives of members of marginalized groups. On the other hand, many professors and university health professionals have raised concerns that PC culture is too extreme, and the norms are preventing students from developing critical thinking skills. Despite the fact that the debate has being going on for nearly 30 years, little has been resolved. Though many have written their opinions of PC, few have theorized about why it exists or how it functions. Furthermore, although empirical research has peripherally examined the effects of some PC-related issues, very little empirical research has explicitly tested the effects of PC. In order to encourage further theorizing and empirical research about this topic, a short history of the PC movement is presented, a background on social norms and ideology helps provide useful insight for understanding PC, and the small amount of empirical research that explicitly examines PC, such as research on language and the pressure to appear PC, is presented to help with ideas for future research.

Article

Punishment has been regarded as an important instrument to sustain human cooperation. A great deal of experimental research has been conducted to understand human punishment behavior, in particular, informal peer punishment. What drives individuals to incur cost to punish others? How does punishment influence human behavior? Punishment behavior has been observed when the individual does not expect to meet the wrongdoers again in the future and thus has no monetary incentive to punish. Several reasons for such retributive punishment have been proposed and studied. Punishment can be used to express certain values, attitudes, or emotions. Egalitarianism triggers punishment when the transgression leads to inequality. The norm to punish the wrongdoers may also lead people to incur costs to punish even when it is not what they intrinsically want to do. Individuals sometimes punish wrongdoers even when they are not the victim. The motivation underlying the third-party punishment can be different than the second-party punishment. In addition, restricting the punishment power to a third party can be important to mitigate antisocial punishment when unrestricted second-party peer punishment leads to antisocial punishments and escalating retaliation. It is important to note that punishment does not always promote cooperation. Imposing fines can crowd out intrinsic motivation to cooperate when it changes people’s perception of social interactions from a generous, non-market activity to a market commodity and leads to more selfish profit-maximizing behavior. To avoid the crowding-out effect, it is important to implement the punishment in a way that it sends a clear signal that the punished behavior violates social norms.

Article

Kathleen Barrett

Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice lists “international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law” as the second source of law to be used by the Court. In other words, customary international law (CIL) requires state practice and opinio juris, the belief that the practice is legally required. A basic principle of international law is that sovereign states must consent to be bound by international legal requirements. Therefore, for a norm to become CIL, a widespread group of states must consistently follow the norm and indicate, either explicitly or implicitly, that they consent to the norm. Consistent action is important in two ways: consistent state practice following the norm indicates state consent to be bound by the norm and consistent objection to the norm indicates that the state does not consent to the norm. To avoid being bound by a rule of CIL, a state must persistently object to the rule during and after its formation. Changing CIL requires new state practice and evidence that opinio juris supports the new, not the old, state practice. Debates surrounding state practice include the number of states required to demonstrate “widespread” action, whether the states must be representative of the community of states, and how long consistent practice must occur before CIL is formed. Opinio juris is debated because it is subjective unless there is a specific, official statement that there is a belief that the practice is legally required. Once a state consents, implicitly or explicitly, to a CIL rule, it cannot withdraw that consent. States that gain independence after a CIL rule is established are bound by that rule if the former government was not a persistent objector. This is problematic, particularly for former colonies that were not able to object during the formation of existing CIL rules because they were not considered “sovereign states.” Scholars supporting this perspective argue that, prior to decolonization, CIL was used to control the colonies and, since their independence, it is used by the colonizers to maintain their power and perpetuate inequality.

Article

International Relations theory has tended to overlook the role of Africa and Africans in the international system. Traditionally, the discipline’s most influential theorists have focused instead on relationships between and perspectives of “major powers.” A growing body of work, however, has challenged these more limited efforts to conceptualize African agency in international politics. This scholarship has emphasized the significant space available to, and carved-out by, African states in molding the agendas of international institutions, and the role of African governments and advocacy networks in influencing the trajectory of major international debates around issues such as aid, development, trade, climate change, and migration. The study of African agency in international politics continues to wrestle with two key debates: the meanings of “agency” and “African.” Much of the literature focuses primarily on the role and influence of African states rather than that of African citizens and communities. This focus provides, at best, only a partial and qualified view of the ways in which African agency is secured and exercised at the global level, particularly given the significant structural constraints imposed on Africa by global economic and political inequalities. The extent to which contemporary analysis captures the breadth of African engagement with the international system is also compromised by current state-centric approaches. It is thus necessary to examine a range of approaches adopted by scholars to deepen and nuance the study of African agency in international politics, including work on agenda-setting, mesolevel dynamics and microlevel dynamics.

Article

David E. Rast III and Christine Kershaw

Although social influence and leadership are inextricably intertwined, with a few notable exceptions, they are typically discussed in isolation from one another. The overlap of methods of social influence and theories of leadership, however, makes it clear these topics should be discussed together. Furthermore, the involvement of group norms, which are group-based social constructs related to values within the group, clearly link leadership and social influence research. Group norms are involved in social influence via such group-oriented influences as conformity, and they are involved in leadership by setting the values used to determine the group’s leader. Understanding the relationship between and the potential limitations of social influence and leadership will provide researchers in both fields with a stronger foundation for future areas of inquiry.

Article

Christina Kiel and Jamie Campbell

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and international institutions have proliferated since the end of World War II. This development has changed the landscape of international relations not only for states, but also for nongovernmental organizations and social movements. The advocacy of international nongovernmental organizations (INGO) plays a central role in pushing IGOs and their member states toward action. INGOs’ success in doing so depends on a number of factors, opportunity prime among them. Political opportunity structures (the institutional arrangements and resources available for political and social mobilization) determine lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) INGO access to power holders and thus their chances of bringing their concerns, and possible solutions to those concerns, to IGOs. The opportunity structures vary significantly from one IGO to the next. For example, the political opportunity structure offered by the European Union (EU) has been favorable to LGBT activism, while the United Nations is much less open to comprehensive inclusion of LGBT and sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) human rights. As LGBT issues move onto an IGO’s agenda, a symbiotic relationship develops between the IGO and advocacy organizations. The changing opportunity structures influence NGOs’ structure, strategy, and resource mobilization. Coordination between advocacy groups with similar goals becomes easier when many organizations have physical offices at IGOs. For diplomats and bureaucrats working at the IGO or national representative offices, INGOs can be beneficial, too. In particular, advocacy organizations are experts and purveyors of information. However, the interdependence between INGOs and IGOs has the potential of silencing voices that do not neatly fit into the internationalist, liberal rights-based discourse. Besides the political opportunity structures in IGOs, the frames INGOs use to advocate for issues have been found to be essential for campaign success. One tactic that often constitutes successful framing is the grafting of issues to existing norms. In the LGBT context, the frames proposed by activists include human rights, health (specifically HIV­-AIDS), and women and gender. International institutions assure that similar issues will be politicized in multiple countries. In order to meaningfully affect domestic populations, the policy needs to translate to the local level through norm diffusion. The mechanisms of diffusion include material inducement (e.g., conditions for membership), learning, and acculturation and socialization.

Article

Thomas Kwasi Tieku

There has been a proliferation of works on informal dimensions of international relations. Putting the scholarship under the banner of informal international relations (IIR), [A1] the value preposition of research and publications on informal aspects of international political life is critically explored in order to chart promising pathways to further research in this growing field of study. Three generations of IIR scholarship may be identified. The first-generation scholarship took the IIR approach without explicitly acknowledging it. The second-generation scholars treated it primarily as an anomaly that ought to be explained. The third-generation scholarship seeks to give IIR a conceptual clarity, theorize it, and show the analytical utility of the concept. Although the IIR scholarship has given us a new outlook into international political life, the IR literature on informality is biased in at least three ways. First, it focuses mostly on informal politics in international organizations (IOs) housed in Western Europe and North American states. It is insightful and informative in the discussion of informality in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) but lacks similar cutting-edge analysis when it comes to informal aspects of international life in the rest of the world. The IIR scholarship neglects the rich tapestry of materials and insights from the Global South and Eastern Europe. Second, it is dominated by studies of informal governance. Other aspects of informal relations, namely, informal practices, processes, norms, and informal rules, have received little attention. Third, it is dominated by rational choice approaches. Perspectives such as critical constructivism, practice theory, intersectionality, neocolonialism, decolonial perspective, and postcolonialism, among others, are rarely used by third-generation scholars to explore informal international life. Finally, IIR ideas are deployed primarily as a last resort or as something used to explain negative political outcomes. IR scholars turn to the informal as a unit of analysis when traditional issue-areas such as formal state structures, formal IOs, official processes, codified norms, and written rules cannot help, and they deploy informal ideas only when well-known variables including state power, powerful registered domestic groups, and legalized nonstate actors are unable to explain a given political problem. But as those who have studied the issue carefully observed, the informal rather than the formal should be the baseline for IR analysis. The discipline of IR will be improved considerably if informality is prioritized and all facets of informal international life are explored in a systematic manner.

Article

Moussa P. Blimpo, Admasu Asfaw Maruta, and Josephine Ofori Adofo

Well-functioning institutions are essential for stable and prosperous societies. Despite significant improvement during the past three decades, the consolidation of coherent and stable institutions remains a challenge in many African countries. There is a persistent wedge between the de jure rules, the observance of the rules, and practices at many levels. The wedge largely stems from the fact that the analysis and design of institutions have focused mainly on a top-down approach, which gives more prominence to written laws. During the past two decades, however, a new strand of literature has emerged, focusing on accountability from the bottom up and making institutions more responsive to citizens’ needs. It designs and evaluates a mix of interventions, including information provision to local communities, training, or outright decentralization of decision-making at the local level. In theory, accountability from the bottom up may pave the way in shaping the institutions’ nature at the top—driven by superior localized knowledge. The empirical findings, however, have yielded a limited positive impact or remained mixed at best. Some of the early emerging regularities showed that information and transparency alone are not enough to generate accountability. The reasons include the lack of local ownership and the power asymmetry between the local elites and the people. Some of the studies have addressed many of these constraints at varying degrees without much improvement in the outcomes. A simple theoretical framework with multiple equilibria helps better understand this literature. In this framework, the literature consists of attempts to mobilize, gradually or at once, a critical mass to shift from existing norms and practices (inferior equilibrium) into another set of norms and practices (superior equilibrium). Shifting an equilibrium requires large and/or sustained shocks, whereas most interventions tend to be smaller in scope and short-lived. In addition, accountability at the bottom is often neglected relative to rights. If norms and practices within families and communities carry similar features as those observed at the top (e.g., abuse of one’s power), then the core of the problem is beyond just a wedge between the ruling elite and the citizens.