norm (social norm)

(noun) The rules or expectations that determine and regulate appropriate behavior within a culture, group, or society.

Example: People are typically expected to refrain from stealing from others and to wear clothes in public places.

Audio Pronunciation: (norm)

Download Audio Pronunciation: norm.mp3

Usage Notes:

Related Quotations:

  • “All groups have norms, values, beliefs, ways of life, and codes of conduct that identify the group and define its boundaries” (McNamee and Miller 2013:58).
  • “If religion protects man against the desire to kill himself, it is not because it preaches respect for his person based on arguments sui generis, but because it is a society. What constitutes this society is the existence of a certain number of beliefs and practices common to all the faithful which are traditional and therefore obligatory. The more numerous and strong these collective states are, the more strongly integrated is the religious community, and the greater its preservative value” (Durkheim [1897] 2004:74).
  • “No society lacks norms governing conduct. But societies do differ in the degree to which folkways, mores and institutional controls are effectively integrated with the goals which stand high in the hierarchy of cultural values. The culture may be such as to lead individuals to center their emotional convictions upon the complex of culturally acclaimed ends, with far less emotional support for prescribed methods of reaching out for these ends. With such differential emphases upon goals and institutional procedures, the latter may be so vitiated by the stress on goals as to have the behavior of many individuals limited only by considerations of technical expediency. In this context, the sole significant question becomes: Which of the available procedures is most efficient in netting the culturally approved value? The technically most effective procedure, whether culturally legitimate or not, becomes typically preferred to institutionally prescribed conduct. As this process of attenuation continues, the society becomes unstable and there develops what Durkheim called ‘anomie’ (normlessness)” (Merton [1949] 1968:189).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 




Durkheim, Émile. [1897] 2004. “Suicide.” Pp. 65–83 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.

McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Merton, Robert King. [1949] 1968. Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.