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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

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

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

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

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

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

Johanna Gereke and Klarita Gërxhani

Experimental economics has moved beyond the traditional focus on market mechanisms and the “invisible hand” by applying sociological and socio-psychological knowledge in the study of rationality, markets, and efficiency. This knowledge includes social preferences, social norms, and cross-cultural variation in motivations. In turn, the renewed interest in causation, social mechanisms, and middle-range theories in sociology has led to a renaissance of research employing experimental methods. This includes laboratory experiments but also a wide range of field experiments with diverse samples and settings. By focusing on a set of research topics that have proven to be of substantive interest to both disciplines—cooperation in social dilemmas, trust and trustworthiness, and social norms—this article highlights innovative interdisciplinary research that connects experimental economics with experimental sociology. Experimental economics and experimental sociology can still learn much from each other, providing economists and sociologists with an opportunity to collaborate and advance knowledge on a range of underexplored topics of interest to both disciplines.

Article

Jolanda van der Noll

Many studies have established that religious people display higher levels of prejudice. The review of the literature suggests, however, that in order to understand the relationship between religion and prejudice, it is important to consider the target of prejudice as well as the multifaceted nature of religion. Regarding the target of prejudice, some prejudices may be condemned in religious communities, whereas others may be perceived to be promoted by religious communities. Religion as a multifaceted construct encompasses social, moral, cognitive, and emotional aspects. In its relations with prejudice, the social and cognitive dimension are particularly relevant, as these dimensions determine who is considered to be an in-group member and what constitutes a threat to the own religious worldview. Furthermore, it has also been shown that the exposure to religious concepts influences prejudicial reactions. Finally, a review of the studies conducted outside the context of white Christians in North America and Europe shows that, regardless of social context and religious denomination, prejudice can to a large extent be explained by perceptions of threat, for example, to one’s belief system, which may especially be important for religious people.

Article

In understanding crowd psychology and its explanation of conflict and violence, there are different theoretical approaches that turn on different understandings of communication processes. There are three models of communication in the crowd worth reviewing: classic, normative, and dynamic. Classic models suggest that crowd members are influenced by an idea of emotion presented to them. Normative models suggest that influence is constrained by what is seen as consonant with group norms. And, finally, dynamic models examine how that which becomes normative in the group depends upon intergroup relations. The last of these approaches can explain the patterned, socially meaningful and yet changing nature of crowd action. Crowd action, itself, is a form of communication because it serves to shape the social understandings of participants as well as the social understandings of those beyond the crowd. It is argued that the nature and centrality of crowds contribute to the understanding and creating of social relations in society.

Article

Social norms were conceptualized as aspects of social structure that emerged from the actions and beliefs of actors in specific communities; norms shaped those actions and beliefs by constituting actors’ identities and interests. Early constructivist work in the 1980s and early 1990s sought to establish a countervailing approach to the material and rational theories that dominated the study of international relations. Empirically oriented constructivists worked to show that shared ideas about appropriate state behavior had a significant impact on the nature and functioning of world politics. Initial constructivist studies of social norms can be divided into three areas: normative, socialization, and normative emergence. After making the case that norms matter and developing a number of theoretical frameworks to show how norms emerge, spread, and influence behavior, norms-oriented constructivists have shifted their attention to a new set of questions, and in particular compliance with the strictures of social norms and change in norms themselves. Ideas about whether actors reason about norms or through norms can be linked to behavioral logics, which provide conceptions of how actors and norms are linked. Two types of normative dynamics can be identified: the first is endogenous contestation; the second is compliance or diffusion. In order to better understand compliance with and contestation over norms either in isolation or together, it is necessary to pay more attention to the prior understanding of who is in the community. Another topic that requires further consideration in future research is the relationship between intersubjective and subjective reality.

Article

Thekla Morgenroth and Michelle K. Ryan

Understanding gender and gender differences is a prevalent aim in many psychological subdisciplines. Social psychology has tended to employ a binary understanding of gender and has focused on understanding key gender stereotypes and their impact. While women are seen as warm and communal, men are seen as agentic and competent. These stereotypes are shaped by, and respond to, social contexts, and are both descriptive and prescriptive in nature. The most influential theories argue that these stereotypes develop in response to societal structures, including the roles women and men occupy in society, and status differences between the sexes. Importantly, research clearly demonstrates that these stereotypes have a myriad of effects on individuals’ cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors and contribute to sexism and gender inequality in a range of domains, from the workplace to romantic relationships.

Article

Norms are regularized patterns of attitudes and behavior that characterize a group of individuals, separate the group from other groups of individuals, and prescribe and describe attitudes and behaviors for group members. Relying on social identity theory and self-categorization theory, the role played by group norms within groups and the processes by which such norms are promulgated within groups are discussed. Norm talk or the communication of normative information within groups is explored, as a major proportion of communication within groups is dedicated to clarifying ingroup identities and group attributes such as attitudes and behaviors that characterize the group. Group members can glean normative information by attending to norm talk for instance, by listening to the content of fellow group members’ communications, from their behavior, and from influential or prototypical sources within the group. According to self-categorization theory, once individuals categorize themselves as members of a salient group or category, they represent normative information cognitively as ingroup prototypes. Prototypes are a fuzzy set of group attributes (such as attitudes and behaviors that characterize the group) and simultaneously minimize differences within groups while maximizing differences between groups. Thus, clear group prototypes help create distinct identities that are clearly demarcated from other groups. Group members should be especially attentive to information that flows from prototypical sources within groups—such as leaders and ingroup media sources—while efforts should be made to differentiate from marginal or deviant members who deviate from the prototype and reduce clarity of ingroup prototypes. The processes through which attending to information communicated by different sources within groups—both prototypical and non-prototypical—help group members seek normative information and clarification of ingroup prototypes are discussed.

Article

Suruchi Sood, Amy Henderson Riley, and Kristine Cecile Alarcon

Entertainment-education (EE) began as a communication approach that uses both entertainment and education to engender individual and social change, but is emerging as a distinct theoretical, practice, and evidence-based communication subdiscipline. EE has roots in oral and performing arts traditions spanning thousands of years, such as morality tales, religious storytelling, and the spoken word. Modern-day EE, meanwhile, is produced in both fiction and nonfiction designs that include many formats: local street theater, music, puppetry, games, radio, television, and social media. A classic successful example of EE is the children’s television program Sesame Street, which is broadcast in over 120 countries. EE, however, is a strategy that has been successfully planned, implemented, and evaluated in countries around the world for children and adults alike. EE scholarship has traditionally focused on asking, “Does it work?” but more recent theorizing and research is moving toward understanding how EE works, drawing from multidisciplinary theories. From a research standpoint, such scholarship has increasingly showcased a wide range of methodologies. The result of these transformations is that EE is becoming an area of study, or subdiscipline, backed by an entire body of theory, practice, and evidence. The theoretical underpinnings, practice components, and evidence base from EE may be surveyed via the peer-reviewed literature published over the past 10 years. However, extensive work in social change from EE projects around the world has not all made it into the published literature. EE historically began as a communication approach, one tool in the communication toolbox. Over time, the nascent approach became its own full-fledged strategy focused on individual change. Backed by emerging technologies, innovative examples from around the globe, and new variations in implementation, it becomes clear that the field of EE is emerging into a discrete theoretical, practice, and evidence-based subdiscipline within communication that increasingly recognizes the inherent role of individuals, families, communities, organizations, and policies on improving the conditions needed for lasting social change.

Article

Thomas E. Ford, Christopher J. Breeden, Emma C. O'Connor, and Noely C. Banos

Humor fundamentally trivializes its topic and invites people to think about it playfully and non-seriously. Intergroup humor, humor that disparages a social group or its representatives thus disguises expressions of prejudice in a cloak of fun and frivolity, affording it the appearance of social acceptability. As a result, disparagement humor represents a pervasive mechanism for communicating prejudice particularly since society has become increasingly sensitive to expressions of prejudice and other forms of offensive speech. Indeed, disparagement humor is perhaps more readily available to us now in the digital age than ever before. Because of its disguise of social acceptability, disparagement humor serves unique paradoxical functions in intergroup settings. It can function as a social “lubricant” and as a social “abrasive.” Disparagement humor directed at social out-groups functions as a social abrasive by threatening the social identity of members of the targeted group, by transmitting negative stereotypes and prejudice, by intensifying prejudice in the service of social dominance motives, and by fostering the release of prejudice against targeted out-groups. It simultaneously serves as a social lubricant for members of the in-group (the non-disparaged group) by enhancing personal and social identities. Finally, it can be co-opted by members of oppressed groups to serve social lubricant functions, including the subversion of prejudice, provided audiences understand and appreciate the subversive intent.

Article

Many health- and risk-related behaviors have moral implications. Most obvious are altruistic behaviors like blood donation. However, issues related to promoting the wellbeing of friends and family members, such as being sure that they don’t drive drunk, and the generalized obligations that attend environmentally relevant behaviors like participating in recycling programs, also tap into moral concerns. For promoting such issues, moral appeals may be appropriate. Moral appeals are messages that acknowledge individuals’ evaluative beliefs about universal rights and wrongs. Appeals to morality produce a sense of obligation and responsibility because morals are viewed as self-evident facts. Three explanations for why people engage in moral behavior are discernible in current scholarship, each with implications for structuring moral appeals: activation of social expectations, activation of personal norms, and arousal of emotion. The first of these is based on the subjective expected utility tradition. From this perspective, the key to successfully encouraging morally relevant behavior is maximizing benefits and minimizing costs. Because prosocial behaviors are enforced by social sanctions, many of these costs and benefits are socially bestowed. Thus, altruism at its core is hedonism. Theories that focus on activation of personal norms, in contrast, contend that people sometimes make decisions to donate blood, demonstrate for healthcare reform, recycle, and so on simply because they view it as their duty and responsibility to do so. When people realize in a concrete situation that their actions have consequences for the welfare of others, and that they are personally responsible for those outcomes, personal norms for the specific case are generated from internalized moral values. In this view, a central concern with moral appeals is ensuring that messages are aligned with internalized norms and that relevance and personal responsibilities are clearly communicated. Finally, theories of emotional arousal stress that although cognitive appraisals of personal and social norms are necessary, they are insufficient to incite people to selfless behavior. Rather, people engage in helping or altruistic behavior because moral appeals are emotionally arousing. Emotions associated with such appeals include empathic concern and guilt. Guilt appeals especially have been found to be as effective in eliciting compliance when behaviors have moral significance as other popular compliance-gaining strategies. Positive emphasis on responsibility and induction of hypocrisy are also techniques that rely on the appeal to moral beliefs.

Article

The development of LGBT movements and interest groups in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union reflects the region’s unique political development with respect to the experience of communism, the transition to democracy in the 1990s, the expanding influence of international institutions like the European Union (EU), and, most recently, trends of democratic backsliding and even reversion to outright authoritarian rule in some countries. Each of these aspects of the region’s political development has engendered debate among scholars and activists. There is consensus that the experience of communism strongly circumscribed not only the possibilities for activism but also, in some instances, even the possibilities for articulating LGBT identities. Nevertheless, a survey of the scholarship on postcommunist LGBT politics indicates divergent trajectories between countries of the former Soviet Union, where LGBT identities are less established and activism is less organized, and the former satellite states of Eastern Europe, whose experience under communism was shorter and, arguably, less intense. Without ignoring the evident deficits of Eastern Europe’s LGBT activism in the 1990s, its LGBT people benefited relative to counterparts in the former Soviet Union from a generally more successful transition to democracy and a greater degree of exposure to West European institutions, in particular the EU. The process of applying for EU membership, many scholars argue, advantaged these countries’ LGBT movements vis-à-vis their counterparts in the former Soviet Union by pressuring national governments to be more accommodating and by socializing elites and publics to Western Europe’s comparatively tolerant values and LGBT rights norms. Adjusting to these norms was sometimes contentious, but several scholars argue that, where conservative backlash against LGBT rights occurred during the EU’s first round of expansion in 2004 to 2007, it generally helped domestic activism by increasing its visibility and level of organization. Not all are so optimistic about the EU’s impact on LGBT activism, however, particularly those studying Yugoslavia’s successor states, for whom the EU accession process occurred later or is still ongoing. These scholars emphasize the difficulties of squaring EU norms about LGBT rights with national identity, particularly given the EU’s sometimes colonial-like relations with postcommunist societies. Others note that transnational rights advocacy supported by the EU has been matched by the rise of transnational antigay activism, and that the clash of transnational activism stalemates domestic progress on LGBT-friendly policies. Such critiques appear increasingly relevant as trends of democratic backsliding have emerged since the 2010 world financial crisis in former “success cases” of postcommunist transition and EU integration, notably Hungary and Poland. The latter’s democratic backsliding occurs within the larger context of Russia’s reversion to authoritarianism after the brief political opening of the 1990s. Across these three countries, governing elites have shown a readiness to make use of LGBT issues to define their illiberal ideologies and to mobilize voters. Whether these developments portend a narrowing of differences among LGBT movements in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is a key question for future scholars.

Article

Gizem Arikan and Pazit Ben-Nun Bloom

In research on religiosity and support for democratic norms, two major debates stand out: The first concerns whether some religious traditions, such as Islam or Orthodox Christianity, are inherently undemocratic, and hence whether supporters of these traditions have antidemocratic orientations. The second debate is about whether religious orientations beyond religious identification foster or hinder support for democratic norms. Both debates may be resolved by conceptualizing both individual religiosity and support for democratic norms as multidimensional orientations. At the individual level, religiosity consists of belief, behavior, and belonging dimensions. Support for democratic norms consist of overt approval of democracy as the ideal system of governing the country and intrinsic support, which refers to an understanding of democracy as being primarily associated with liberal-democratic norms and institutions such as popular sovereignty, political equality, civil rights, and free elections. Religious belief is negatively associated with over support, and religious social behavior is positively associated with overt support. Yet, there is some evidence that the effect of religious social behavior on intrinsic support for democracy may not be positive. Recent scholarship is also interested in identifying the psychological mechanisms through which different religiosity dimensions affect support for democratic norms, as well as establishing the causal effects of religiosity dimensions by experimentally manipulating different facets of religiosity. Although the multidimensional approach to religiosity provides a general framework that explains the effect of religiosity on support for democratic norms, there is still substantive variation across time and different contexts to be explained. Avenues exist for future research in terms of theorizing and identifying the moderating effects of different factors, most obviously the religious context and the influence of religious elites and social networks.