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Course: MCAT > Unit 4

Lesson 1: Foundations of behavior passages

Social norms and deviant behavior


Social order is fundamental for every society. Social order is group’s typical and customary social arrangements, which members of society base their actions on. Social “norms” lay out the basic guidelines for the roles we should play and how we interact with others. There is a reciprocal expectation between people within the group regarding such norms. Any deviance from these “norms” is perceived as threatening to the existing social order and social structure. In a sense, crimes are the violation of norms, written into laws and regulations. This is part of the system of social control that societies have developed, which encompasses formal (e.g., laws) and informal means (e.g., peer pressure) of enforcing norms. Overall, what is considered “normal” and “deviant” is largely socially interpreted. A group’s definition of an act, and not the act itself, determines whether it would be considered deviant. What is considered normal in one society may be considered deviant in another.
Since norms are based on shared expectations and shared definitions within a society, social norms can be extremely resistant to change. For example, UNICEF reports that globally, 1.1 billion people practice open defecation which greatly impacts public health. Historically, interventional programs tended to target individuals or households and focused on providing latrines. However, recently UNICEF has taken a “social norms” approach, engaging entire communities and local leadership, emphasizing participation, using non-monetary rewards such as pride and celebration instead of subsidies. A successful example includes Zambia, where sanitation coverage increased from 38 to 93 percent across 517 villages in a mere 12 months.
Source: UNICEF Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (2009).
The principle that an individual’s norms and actions should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s own cultural context is called:
Choose 1 answer: