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By: Andy & Jedidiah


What would happen if?

You cut into the middle of a line by yourself and stayed in line for at least 2 minutes? You sang loudly on a public bus? You positioned yourself 6 inches from an acquaintances nose during a conversation? You laughed during a funeral?

How would other people behave? How would you feel?

Definition: Group norms are the informal rules that groups adopt to regulate group members behavior. We can identify norms when they are violated:

Wait for your turn. Remain quiet on the bus. Maintain interpersonal distance. Assume a somber demeanor during a funeral.

Early Evidence of Norms

Sherif (1936) interested in the formation of group norms.

Norm: Individual and group judgments in an ambiguous situation. Stimulus: A stationary point of light appears to move in a dark room without any external frame of reference. Questions: Individuals first asked to estimate how far the light moved alone (100 times) and then again as a member of a group.

Results (Individuals)
Individuals established a personal norm that guided their judgments about how far the light was moving. Each individual had their own estimate of distance based on their personal experience.

Question: Would each individuals judgments become more similar when making estimates as a group?

Results (In groups)

The group formed a new estimate of how far the light was moving that was unique to the group and different from the judgment of each individual. Over time the group agreed on how far the light move despite the fact that the light never actually moved at all.

Why do norms exist?

Norms ensure the survival of the group. The norms exist because they work and we know they work or else they wouldnt exist!

Two Important Predictions

Prediction 1:

Subjects who saw the confederate litter into the fully littered environment would litter more than those who did not see such littering. Subjects who saw the confederate litter into the clean environment would be less likely to litter than those who did not see such littering.

Prediction 2:

(2) When Do Norms Influence Behavior?

Study of Littering Behavior:

Injunctive norm: People should litter or they should not litter. Descriptive norm: The parking garage is littered or it is not littered. Confederate carried a large handbill and threw it on the ground.

Norm Salience (Study 1):

Results (continued)
Confederate threw the handbill into the clean environment, thus calling attention to the descriptive norm:

IT IS NOT OK TO LITTER HERE! Only 6% of the subjects littered. 14% of the subjects littered.

When anti-littering norm was noticeable:

When anti-littering norm was not noticeable:

Norms can often be very subtle.

Are you always aware the you are following a norm? Are there situations in which you are more aware than others? (E.g. Picnic vs. Funeral)

Norms have a powerful influence on behavior when people are focused on the norms in a given situation.

How are norms perceived and are these perceptions accurate?

Gambling in Elm Hollow (Shank, 1932)

Members of the community nearly unanimous in their support of the churchs restrictions on gambling, smoking and drinking. Yet, the author often gambled, drank and smoked in the privacy of peoples homes.

Private attitudes did not reflect the public norm.

Pluralistic Ignorance
Definition: Individuals make systematic errors in their perceptions of the other members of a collective and their relation to those members. In other words,

No one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone else believes.

Consequences of Pluralistic Ignorance

Mistaken feelings of alienation and deviance.

Gamblers felt estranged from the town without knowing that they were actually typical. Students who felt deviant because of their views on alcohol were less likely to attend their college reunion. Male students conformed to the misperceived norm by drinking more.

Individual versus the Group

The group has a reality above and beyond the individuals that compose it.

A college campus can be more pro-alcohol than its students. Two campuses can differ on their attitudes toward alcohol even if their students do not. Norms on campus can change even if the attitudes of its students have not.

By: Andy & Jedidiah


Social Control
All societies have ways to promote order, stability and predictability in social life. Without social control, social life would be unpredictable, even chaotic. There are two broad types of social control:

Internal External

Social Control
Internal social control lies within the individual, and is developed during socialization. You are practicing internal social control when you act according to your conscience (ie. you do something because it is the right thing to do).

Most people act according to this internal social control (ie. they do the right thing) most of the time.

Social Control
The process of socialization does not ensure that all people will conform all of the time. For this reason, external social control must also be present. External social control is based on social sanctions rewards and punishments designed to encourage desired behaviour.

Positive sanctions (eg. smile of approval, awards, raises) are used to encourage conformity. Negative sanctions (eg. criticism, fines, imprisonment) are intended to stop socially unacceptable behaviour.

Sanctions may be formal or informal

Formal (eg. low grades, awards, jail time) Informal (eg. ridicule, gossip, smiles)

Control Theory
Control Theory

Intro Containment Theory Social Bond Theory

Control Theory
Control theory looks at how some social structures have led to higher rates of deviance.

Communities where there are high rates of poverty, conflict and disorganization have been found to lack the structure needed to exert control over their citizens.

In these communities, there are often high rates of crime, mental illness, suicide and substance abuse.

Control Theory
Control theory investigates the ways in which behaviour is regulated, including the influences of family, school, morals, values, beliefs, etc.

It is this regulation that is seen as leading to conformity and compliance with the rules of society.

Control Theory
The mere existence of rules or norms cannot in and of itself explain conformity. Control theorists want to know why people conform to norms.

Clearly controlling forces are present in the lives of some people but not of others. Everyone gets tempted to break the rules, but not everyone does. Why?

Control Theory
Crime is the result of a loss of social control normally imposed through social institutions such as:

Family Religious faith / spirituality Education Community values

If such informal social control is weakened, formal means of social control (eg. criminal justice system) may be imposed.

Containment Theory and Social Bond Theory

While some people ask the question Why are people deviant?, control theorists ask the question Why arent we all deviant?

Two control theories Containment Theory and Social Bond Theory have been developed to answer this question.

Containment Theory
Sociologist Walter Reckless (1967) suggested that people are drawn toward deviance for various reasons (frustration, media influence, poverty, etc).

These negative influences pull all individuals toward deviance in some way. There must, then, be some way of containing individuals within the norms.

Containment Theory
Reckless suggested that people could be insulated from crime

If properly socialized by his parents and peers, the individual will control (or contain) himself. The individual provides his own containment (controlling those natural impulses that could lead to the violation of norms). If the individual cannot contain himself from violating norms, his family and/or peers may try to contain him. If that fails, the other social institutions of informal social control may provide containment.

Social Bond Theory

Expanding on Reckless theory, sociologist Travis Hirschi developed a theory suggesting that deviant behaviour is minimized when people have strong bonds that connect them to:

Families School Peers Church Other social institutions

Social Bond Theory

There are 4 elements to Hirschis theory: 1) Attachment

Attachment refers to sensitivity to and interest in others; it is how strongly we are tied to others. This requires sensitivity to the needs of others and an interest in their welfare. There are 3 prime locations for attachment: parents school peers

Social Bond Theory

2) Commitment

This refers to the extent to which we are committed to conventional forms of action (school, work, etc). Commitment requires time, energy and effort. The more we develop this commitment, the more we have to lose if we commit deviant acts and are caught.

Social Bond Theory

3) Involvement

This refers to the amount of time that we are involved in conventional activities (primarily through school, recreation and family). Involvement in conventional activities leaves little time for deviant behaviour.

Social Bond Theory

4) Beliefs

This refers to an acceptance of conventional morality and a respect for authority. Beliefs refers to / implies adhering to such values as:
Sharing Sensitivity to others

Respect for societys legal code

Social Bond Theory

In a nutshell: Basically, Hirschi is arguing that if a person is bonded to society, they are not as likely to break the law.

they have too much to lose they have little time to break the law they are too sensitive to the feelings of others to victimize them