Social Norms: Definition, Functions, Types, Characteristics and Examples

Social norms are – Humans are creatures that can be called social beings as well as individual beings. Humans are considered social beings because basically humans cannot meet their own needs.

Therefore, humans will always live side by side in one group. They will rely on each other so that they can carry out their survival.

Meanwhile, humans can be called individual beings because humans also have personal interests. Because of this, sometimes there are different views in the process of carrying out their respective lives.

Not infrequently these different views can lead to a conflict, be it verbal debate or debate using physical elements. If this continues to happen without anything that can regulate it, of course, a large number of wars cannot be avoided anymore.

Therefore, in the midst of human life that is side by side, we need a rule and these rules we are familiar with the term social norms.

Definition of Social Norms

Social norms are a set of rules or guidelines for life that are usually unwritten but will continue to apply in people’s lives. The existence of social norms can be influenced by actions and social life in general.

Meanwhile, without social norms, of course life in society will become chaotic and even unmanageable. The existence of social norms is also usually accompanied by various kinds of written sanctions.

In simple terms, social norms are things that make a social action carried out by members of the community can be called a normal thing. As a rule, social norms have the nature of guiding, influencing to determine and regulate one’s actions. In sociology, norms are part of the social structure.

When we study norms, it means the same as we are understanding the ways of social structures that make a society’s actions so that they can be like an orderly pattern of life. When a norm is violated, there will be a disrupted social system. Meanwhile, if norms are always obeyed, then the social system can also run as it should.

A sociologist named Emile Durkheim explained that without norms, society would fall apart. Chaos is an anomaly of an orderly social system. He also mentioned that this phenomenon is anomie, which is a social condition without rules, norms and regularity.



Definition of Social Norms According to Experts

After we know the meaning of social norms in general. Next, we will find out the definition of social norms according to experts.

1. John J. Macionis

John J. Macionis explains that social norms are rules and expectations of society that are useful for guiding the behavior of its members so as not to deviate from the goals that were previously planned.

2. Robert Mz. Mace

Robert Mz. Lawang provides an explanation of social norms, namely as a form of description of what is desired properly and appropriately. Therefore, social norms are also assumptions that are considered good and need to be respected accordingly.

3. Hans Kelsen

Hans Kelsen explains that social norms are orders that are not personal or public and appear to be anonymous.

4. Soerjono Soekanto

According to Soerjono Soekanto, social norms are a form of device so that relations between people can be well established.

5. Isworo Hadi Wiyono

Isworo Hadi Wiyono interprets social norms as rules or guidelines for life that can provide “projections” for which actions are permissible and can be carried out and which actions must be avoided together.

6.Antony Gidden

Antony Gidden explains that social norms are concrete principles or rules that society should pay attention to.

Those are some experts who explain what social norms are. After discussing the meaning of social norms, then we will study together about the function of social norms.

Functions of Social Norms

The existence of social norms certainly also has its own function in the midst of people’s lives. A sociologist named Soemardjan explains the importance of norms in social life. He explained that social norms in society have several functions that are so crucial.

The function of social norms is as a way of life that applies to every individual and society in a specific location and time.

An example is when in village A people will give greetings before leaving when visiting. However, this behavior does not necessarily exist and apply in other villages. The opposite can also happen.

In addition, the existence of social norms can also increase along with the increase in each individual in society which is followed by various kinds of regulations. So, when there are individuals who violate will get sanctions. Of course, the sanctions given can have different levels.

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For example, if someone steals a chicken, they will be punished like going to jail. But it’s different with people who are often angry, they can get social sanctions in the form of being ostracized or shunned by society.

Social norms themselves have the power to bind different members of society. There are those who have a very strong level of binding and there are also norms that have a loose level of binding. The stronger the social norms that bind society, the weaker the tendency of people to violate these social norms. However, the opposite can also happen.


Types of Social Norms

1. Types of Social Norms Based on Their Sources

After understanding what social norms are and their functions. Next, we will learn together about the types of social norms that are seen based on their sources.

Based on the source, social norms can be divided into four, namely religious norms, legal norms, decency norms and politeness norms. Each type of norm has a different meaning and role.

So that you understand more about the types of norms based on their sources. The following is a complete explanation.

a. A religious norm

Religious norms are a set of rules of life that usually come from God’s revelation. The existence of religious norms will regulate the relationship between humans and other humans and the relationship between humans and God.

Therefore, humans must comply with religious norms by obeying all forms of God’s commands and avoiding all God’s prohibitions. That way, every human being can control himself in every day of his life.

An example is carrying out worship according to their respective religions, so as to foster an attitude of tolerance between religious communities and caring for the environment.

b. Legals norm

Next, there are legal norms. Legal norms are all forms of rules originating from the state. Legal norms will contain the contents of orders and prohibitions for every citizen in a country. When there are citizens who violate legal norms, they will receive sanctions as a form of punishment.

Legal norms will be drafted and ratified by authorized state institutions in accordance with their functions and duties. The existence of legal norms can create a more orderly and peaceful life.

For example, every driver of a motorized vehicle must have a driver’s license or driver’s license, drivers must always obey traffic rules, every citizen is prohibited from spreading fake news, and so on.

c. Obscenity

Next, there are the norms of decency, which can be interpreted as regarding all rules of life that originate from the human conscience. With the human conscience, we can give an assessment of what we have done, whether the action is in accordance with the wishes of our personal heart or is it the other way around. That way, any form of action or attitude will come from conscience.

The existence of decency norms will make life more harmonious and can regulate relations between humans. If this norm is violated, usually the perpetrator will feel guilty and regret.

An example of the norm of decency is someone who does bad behavior to other humans, such as cheating on a friend’s work or stealing other people’s belongings.

d. Politeness Norms

Finally, there is the politeness norm, in which this norm will regulate human interaction. The norms of decency usually come from community agreements. The existence of politeness norms is intended to regulate all forms of actions that are considered polite and impolite.

This norm actually has a different form. This is none other than because it is adjusted to the agreement of each community in a certain area. With the norms of decency, it is easier for us to adapt and get along with society. Meanwhile, those who violate decency norms will usually receive sanctions such as ostracism, ridicule and shunned by society.

Examples of politeness norms, such as students who must pay respect to the teacher, one must use polite language when talking to older people or not interrupt other people who are talking, and many more.

Those are some types of social norms based on their sources. Each norm always has its own role and until now some of the above types of norms still exist in society.



1. Types of Social Norms Based on the Level of Binding Power

Apart from originating from the source, social norms are also differentiated based on the level of binding power. That means, each norm has different binding strength. So that you can be clearer about several types of norms that are seen based on their binding power, here is a complete explanation.

a. Folkways or Habits

Folkways is a norm that can be called a customary norm. By definition, a customary norm is a rule with stronger power than usage . This is none other than because the actions of the customary norm will be carried out repeatedly.

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The easiest example is when we knock on the door and give greetings when visiting other people’s homes. When we visit and don’t do this habit, we will be judged as someone who has no decency or etiquette values. The punishment received will usually be in the form of a reprimand.

b. Usage or Method

Judging by its level, of all the types of social norms that exist, the norm of way or usage is the weakest type of level. This is none other than because the sanctions given to the perpetrators are only in the form of ridicule.

The easiest example is when we are visiting abroad, basically the habit of the people of that country is to use cutlery. However, when we have the habit of directly using our hands, we will spontaneously eat food using our hands as before.

Coincidentally, native people of that country see our eating habits and think that these habits are not pretty to look at. Chances are they will ridicule us for doing this habit.

c. Mores or Code of Conduct

Mores are usually more widely known as norms of code of conduct. This code of conduct has an understanding as a rule that will control people’s behavior and will provide a sanction if the person does not comply with the existing rules. In fact, the sanctions given are also quite heavy when compared to other normal sanctions.

An example is when someone commits an act of stealing, killing, consuming drugs, raping and all kinds of other criminal acts. When some of these things are done, the perpetrators will be given a sanction, such as imprisonment or criminal punishment in the country concerned.

Those who commit these violations can not only harm themselves, but can also endanger safety and harm others.

d. Custom or Customs

Custom can also be called norms. This type of norm is a rule that exists and has been passed down from generation to generation and also has a very binding nature.

Violators of customs will lead to social sanctions or customary sanctions. The existence of this norm is usually due to an agreement between certain groups of people.

An example is when the rice throwing tradition has become one of the wedding customs in a certain village. However, when a couple gets married without carrying out the rice throwing tradition, the local community will view this as a strange form of action.

The sanctions given are also more severe, such as marriages being considered invalid because they are not carried out according to customs that have been in force for a long time.

Those are some types of social norms that are seen based on the level of binding power.

Characteristics of Social Norms

Social norms also have characteristics in them. The existence of this feature will make it easier for people to recognize social norms. So, for more details, here are some characteristics of social norms.

1. Has an Unwritten Nature

Social norms usually can only be remembered, absorbed and applied in an interaction between members in certain social groups. In other words, social norms have unwritten characteristics.

2. There is because of the results of a mutual agreement

One of the goals of social norms is to regulate the behavior of all members of society. Therefore, the existence of social norms must be based on the results of mutual agreement in a community environment.

3. Can Experience Change

Over time social norms allow for change. This is none other than because social norms are formed over the process of social interaction in community groups which are influenced by the times as well.

4. Will Be Obeyed Together

Because social norms are a common rule that exists in people’s lives. Of course, the existence of social norms must be obeyed jointly by all levels of society.

5. The Existence of Punishments or Sanctions

When executed, social norms will also be accompanied by a punishment or sanction. The punishment or sanction has a mild, moderate, and severe character. The existence of this punishment or sanction will be given to those who violate the norms that have been imposed and approved by society.

Examples of Social Norms

After we know all things related to social norms. Next, we will study some examples of social norms that have existed in people’s lives so far. Here are some examples of social norms.

  1. Throw garbage in its place.
  2. Do not use illegal drugs such as drugs.
  3. Following the rules of obedience to protocol during the Covid-19 pandemic so as not to get infected with the corona virus.
  4. Helping others when they are in trouble.
  5. The perpetrators of theft will get a penalty or sanction.

Those are some examples of social norms that already exist in people’s lives. Every social norm that exists in the community environment needs to be carried out so that fellow members of the community can live safely and peacefully.

So, social norms are a set of rules or life guidelines that are usually unwritten, but will continue to apply in people’s lives. With the existence of social norms, the life of fellow citizens can run as it should.

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