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What is normal? Exploring folkways, mores, and taboos

Video transcript

psychologists and sociologists study human behavior as a study behavior they're often asked what is normal who decides what behavior is normal how do we determine if a person's behavior is strange or even criminal the individuals who seek to understand those questions and define their answers actually studies norms now basically speaking norms or standards for what kinds of behavior acceptable and what kinds aren't there are unwritten rules that dictate how a person should behave in a given situation around a given group of people those rules are defined by that group of people and are usually guided by some kind of moral standard or ethical value that is easily understood and internalized by all the individuals in the group so norms provide structure within groups and set specific standards for how people can behave and they're heavily dependent on context the physical location and can even change over time as we'll see so let's go through a very simple example imagine you're at a baseball game and your favorite player hits a homerun so you stand up and you yell very loudly now in this context within this group of individuals this behavior is very normal yelling is considered acceptable and it's even encouraged among other people attending the game with you because when you yell in this context you're supporting the player and the team now imagine you're in a meeting at work and while your boss is talking you stand up and yell very loudly in this context within this group of individuals your behavior is not normal or acceptable again in the same way that norms vary based on context or situation they also vary significantly from culture the culture or from country to country as an example individuals from America often greet each other with a simple hello or handshake whereas in European countries it is customary to greet someone with a kiss in the cheek and lastly norms can change over time as individuals attitudes shift or circumstances change that allow different types of behavior to become so let's use baseball as an example again when Americans first began playing baseball it was only considered normal for men to play so women were not included in professional baseball however when many of the nation's men were drafted to fight in World War two women began playing the sport to keep Americans entertained in the circumstances at the time caused a shift in the valued behavior so by the time the war ended in men returned to baseball it was normal for both women and men to professionally play baseball to review norms our standards for behavior that are set within groups of individuals and are dependent on specific situations locations and historical circumstances in addition to those characteristics norms also can be classified into four distinct groups you have folkways mores taboos and laws and these groups basically dictate how important the norm is and consequences for deviating from the norm so first up or folk ways folk ways are the most mild type of norm they're basically just common rules or manners that we're supposed to follow on a day to day basis folk ways are typically traditions that individuals have followed for a long time and our very basic everyday courtesies things like opening a door for someone or helping a person who's dropped an item in the grocery store or just saying thank you if you don't engage in a folk way the consequences are usually not severe or consistent there is no actual punishment or strong issue with refusing to help a person who's dropped an item in a grocery store it just might be seen as rude so those are folk ways now let's talk about mores I know it looks like mores but it's actually pronounced mores and mores are norms that are based in some moral value or belief and because mores are dependent on the group's understanding of right and wrong they generally produce strong feelings and there's usually a reaction if the marais is violated so a simple example of a mores truthfulness most people feel pretty strongly that individuals should tell the truth because that's the right thing to do so when public figures are not truthful there's usually outrage in a sense that the individual has done something morally wrong however mores do not always have serious consequences now laws laws are norms that are still based on an understanding of right and wrong but they have more formal and consistent consequences so using our more a example imagine that a public figure lies but they happen to lie while under oath now in this situation they've done something morally wrong which is lying that also happens to violate the laws of the court so in this case lying under oath they would have a specific punishment that fits their crime now that said violation of laws can be very simple like jaywalking or very severe like murder and there isn't always outrage or disgust when a law is violated Persia pens on the type of law that was broken now taboos are behaviors that are completely forbidden in any circumstance their base in a deep understanding of right and wrong and the violation of a taboo results in consequences that are far more extreme than morei now it is a norm to not engage in taboos and if a taboo is committed is considered very immoral behavior taboos are often punishable by law and taboos also usually result in severe disgust by members of the community and two common examples of taboo are incest or sexual relations among family members and cannibalism eating human flesh so now that we've gone over these types of norms let's review with an example so imagine you're back at that baseball game and you look over and see your friend and you notice that there's if Iran their pants has come undone so the fly is open now example of a folk way would be to tell your friend that their zipper is down now that's just common courtesy but if you don't tell your friend then there's no specific consequence other than your friend maybe being embarrassed so that's that be a folk way now imagine that you see another friend who's taken off their shirt and painted their team's logo on their chest and let's say you feel pretty strongly about modesty so you think it's wrong that your friend has taken off his shirt and it's exposing so much skin see this would be an example of a more a though you feel it's wrong for your friend to show this much skin there's no serious consequence for his behavior other than your disapproval so that would be a more Ray now imagine that same friend has now removed all of his clothes and decides that go streaking across the field in this situation he's now broken a law and will receive some kind of punishment however within this context that probably isn't much outrage or disgust in fact the crowd is probably laughing or maybe cheering as your naked friend is chased around the baseball field now I won't give an example of a taboo that could occur here being that baseball games are usually a family event but just know that if a taboo were to occur it would be met with overwhelming disgust and would have serious legal consequences so on that note I like to conclude this discussion on norms