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Author: Paul Hannan

Identify the different types of norms, and their importance to culture.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology, Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on norms. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today, we're looking at norms. Now, what exactly are norms? Well, norms are just rules or expectations of society that guideline the way people decide they're going to act. So it's really saying what we should do as people within a society.

And there's two different types of norms. There's proscriptive and prescriptive. Now, proscriptive are guidelines on what is bad and unacceptable, and prescriptive guidelines what is good and acceptable behavior. So prescriptive behavior would be the golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated, and a proscriptive behavior, proscriptive norm would be stealing. So that's an unacceptable behavior would be stealing.

Now, William Graham Sumner is a sociologist, and he looked at norms and he kind of found that some were more important than others. And he thought the most important norms were called mores. Now, these are norms that are really widely followed and they have great moral significance. They're really the most important norms of a society.

Then when it comes to other types of norms, there's also folkways. These are just kind of for daily routine, regular casual interactions kind of norms, the way you might greet people.

And then there's taboo. And taboo are things that are prohibited and discouraged. So when you hear someone say it's taboo to talk about that, it's something that society-- it's a norm not to do that thing.

So today's take away message, norms are our rules or expectations of society that guides the behavior of people. And there's proscriptive norms, which are guidelines of what is unacceptable, and prescriptive norms, which are guidelines on what is acceptable.

William Graham Sumner is a famous sociologist, and he looked at some norms that are more important than others. And he came up with the idea of mores, which is that some norms are more important and have more moral significance than others. And then there's also folkways, which are just norms of everyday interaction, and taboos, which are norms surrounding prohibited behavior and ideas.

So that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

Norms for casual interaction whose violation often has little consequence but are widely observed nonetheless.


Elevated norms with moral dimensions that are widely observed.


Formal and informal rules of conduct and behavioral expectations in social interaction.

Prescriptive Norms

Norms that prescribe what one should do in social interaction.

Proscriptive Norms

Norms that prescribe what one should not do in social interaction.


Mores that are proscriptive bans on the worst conduct in society.