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Social norms are conventions that direct human behavior. Anthropologists described how social norms functioned in different cultures. Sociologists, for instance, Durkheim and Parsons focused on norms in social functions and how they motivated people to act. Norms primarily constrained behavior. They were chief to the production of social order and social coordination (Bicchieri et al., 2011). Anything that seemed to derail order hence was breaking a norm. To prove that point, I did an experiment in a dining area.
I did my observation in a Multi-National Base, the Tarin Kowt dining facility. As a group of people ate, I observed their behavior for over 25 minutes. It was a mixed group of people of different nationalities. Some of them were Americans. Most of the people appeared relaxed as they had their meal. This was probably after a hard day’s work. However, there was one table with very jovial people laughing out loud and making jokes. This caused a stir as people from the other tables seemed irritated. It showed from the facial expressions they made. They disproved the conduct of those shouting in the dining area. This reaction was obviously an indication that those laughing aloud did contrary to what was expected of them. Usually, people were expected to eat and chat with their voices audible within a certain radius. Sounds heard beyond that surely caused a disturbance.
A few days later, I went into the same dining facility and sat with some Afghan Interpreters enjoying their meal. I sat next to some people socializing and decided to break the norm. I ate with my hands. First, I ate rice with meat then later I ate salad. I received many stares besides weird facial expressions of disapproval. Some came as close as my table to inquire why I was not using the fork, spoon, and knife provided. I explained to them I was doing a social experiment of trying to break a norm. I admit the whole event was rather hilarious as people stared on in disbelief. I got negative sanctions from the people observing me. Intriguingly, the Afghan Interpreters did not seem surprised at my action. I later discovered eating with hands in their culture was not unique. The Afghan people who saw me thought it was okay to do so. People almost certainly thought I had a problem. They thought I acted weirdly. Some who came where I was probably intended to teach me the right thing to do. I had contravened the norm, which was rather strange. Those people expected I was socialized into using spoons and forks. It surprised them that I appeared not to know.
Socialization has a cultural connotation. How one is trained to behave, depends on the culture in which they find themselves. The definition of deviance depends on the expectations of society. Deviance, therefore, has a sociological perspective. Social control restricts what should and what should not be done. The theory of the socialized actor presumes that social norms affect the actions of an individual as the norms are part of their inclinations. The normative expectation is that certain behavior should be tolerated. This follows either progressive or a destructive sanction for conformity or contravention. This perspective gives a clear explanation as to why society seems to be organized and why some things are deviant. Norms are the set standard measure for appropriateness or inappropriateness of behavior.
Bicchieri, Cristina & Muldoon, Ryan (2011). Social norms. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.