The 4 types of norms (customs, customs, taboos and laws) (2023)

The 4 types of norms (customs, customs, taboos and laws) (1)

In sociology there are 4 types of norms. They are: customs, taboos, customs and laws. They rise on a scale of harshness from folk customs that are unspoken norms to laws that are enforced by the state.

The concepts of manners and customs were introduced to sociology by William Sumner in the early 20th century. Since then, sociologists, criminologists, and anthropologists have analyzed cultural and social norms through the lens of these four norms.

standard typedescription
popular customsFolk customs are customs that we follow, but which are often not written down. We learn them through intuition as we grow up.
disguisedCustoms are moral norms. If you break them, you will not only be seen as unpleasant, but also as immoral. They are usually bound by religious norms.
taboosTaboos are “negative norms”: things that people find offensive and socially inappropriate if they catch you doing it.
With theLaws are rules that are actually defined as legal or illegal. The government has decided that these rules are so important that breaking them can get you in trouble.

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Types of cultural and social norms

Related:Examples of social norms

1. Popular Streets

Definition:Folkways are customs that people follow within a society. They are oftenimplicitly, meaning you may not have been taught the customs of your culture. Rather, you learned them by immersing yourself in a culture while growing up.

Examples:These are small customs like covering your mouth when yawning, trying not to smoke in the wind of others, or thanking the clerk at the supermarket. See more informationExamples of customs in sociology.

Discussion:In schools, teachers often reinforce popular norms even though those norms are not in the curriculum. When teachers take responsibility for strengthening popular customs, we call itHidden Curriculum.

severity:When you break a habit it might seem a bit strange, but no one will care too much. You just can't make friends! People who understand customs and customs are generally more popular and socially acceptable.

(Video) Types of Norms | Norms | Culture | Sociology Lectures | Lectures by Waqas Aziz | Waqas Aziz

Related article: 29 examples of formal rules

2 more

Definition:Customs are moral norms. The term "more" comes from "moral". If you break more, society will consider you immoral. Some customs are illegal (which also makes them the law), others are not.

Examples:Speaking behind a friend's back can be considered immoral and therefore more than hurtful. It's not illegal to gossip, but people will frown upon you and see that you're breaking moral standards. Read moreExamples of manners in sociology.

Discussion:Customs are often the most difficult to identify as they can also be custom, taboo or law. When the social norm has a layer ofMoralinvolved, chances are there are more. We generally think of another as something that has a clear right or wrong.

severity:A breakup will likely push you away from your community and friend groups, but unlike taboos, they are also things that are openly discussed, making them easier to learn and understand.

The 4 types of norms (customs, customs, taboos and laws) (2)

3. Taboos

Definition:Taboos are social norms in a society that are considered shocking when broken. Often these are things nobody talks about because they are so embarrassing and socially unacceptable.

Examples: Taboos in American cultureThese include adultery, flirting during marriage, and spitting on others.Read more about taboos in sociology.

Discussion:Taboos are often things that are whispered softly because they are so unacceptable. These are things that are kept secret and usually not discussed in front of children. They often leave people surprised when they break them.

severity:While taboos do not necessarily need to be included in the law (although they could be), they are considered very strict. If you break one, you might get so embarrassed you can't look people in the eye.

4. With him

Definition:Laws are cultural and social norms enforced by the state. If you are found to have broken a law, you could be fined or even jailed.

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Examples:Typically, a society enacts laws related to violence against others, theft, and property damage. Read more about other example laws.

Discussion:In a democracy, society has come together to agree on what should and shouldn't be illegal. Authoritarian societies can make many laws out of customs and taboos (like Singapore's strict garbage policing), while liberal societies legislate only on the most serious violations of social norms.

severity:This is the highest severity of the four standard types. Breaking a law can get you in big trouble.

Cultural norms x social norms

cultural normsThey are norms drawn from our own cultural group (Catholic culture, Chinese culture, Quebec culture, etc.)social normsthey are norms that we all share in a multicultural society.

There can be many different cultures within a society. This is referred to as a "multicultural society". For example, you might live somewhere where many Christians, Indians, Muslims, Egyptians, and African Americans all live in one society.

norms and contexts

rule changedepending on the context. This can include:

  • Time and Epoch:Cultures and societies evolve over time. Until the turn of the millennium, same-sex marriage was considered a violation of the customs of western society. This too has been enshrined in law. But with liberalization and changing cultural attitudes, customs and later (later) laws changed to accommodate society's changing views.
  • Culture and Society:Cultures have different ways of looking at things. These include customs (although the morality of one culture differs greatly from another), taboos, customs and laws. For example, some cultures are more conservative than others. For more information on differences in cultural norms, see my article onethnocentrism.
  • Space:Different parts of the world have different standards. This is mainly because different spaces in the world are occupied by different cultures. So when you go on vacation abroad, remember that you are entering a room with different rules.

Folkways vs. Sitten vs. Tabus

Folkways vs. Mores:Customs are moral norms, while folk customs are customs that may not reach the level of morality, only politeness. For example, a person who spits on the sidewalk might not be considered immoral, but rather a bit rude. Spitting on the sidewalk is a habit, nothing more. On the other hand, when someone commits adultery, it is generally assumed that they have broken a moral code, so it is a violation of more than one custom.

Folkways vs. Tabus:Folk customs are customs, while taboos are cultural (but not legal) prohibitionsshockingif you break them In the United States, for example, it's taboo to ask a woman about her sex life. This goes beyond a custom (which is nothing but rudeness) and becomes taboo because people would be somethingshockedYou can even get fired if you do this at work.

Folkways contra Leis:While folk customs are just customs that are part of a culture's modus operandi, the government enforces the laws. Most societies only enforce laws that are serious violations of the rules, such as B. Violence or theft.

More x taboos:Customs and taboos overlap heavily. A plus is a violation of a moral code, while a taboo is something you shouldn't do and is shocking when you do. Here you can see that most taboos are also customs. Although definitions vary, often one breaks a social norm, one breaks a norm and a taboo.

Mores x Leis:Customs are moral norms while laws are government-imposed norms. These also overlap significantly. But they overlap less than customs and taboos. That's because most Western societies don't create laws around religious norms. In other words, religious norms about morality (akadisguised) are often not laws. For example, adultery is not illegal in the United States, but Christians consider it a violation of the rules set forth in the Ten Commandments.

(Video) Norms And it's Types || Folkways || Mores || Taboos || Laws in sociology || Sociology Lectures .

Taboo x Laws:Taboos are not necessarily illegal, while laws are. In general, a taboo is something that society believes you shouldn't do because it goes against society's norms.miit causes turmoil when it breaks. He is also rarely talked about (taboos are whispered at night). But the laws are discussed openly: therefore the laws are more obvious, while the taboos are more secretive.

Related: Examples of functionalism in sociology


There are four types of norms: customs, customs, taboos, and laws. They rise in severity from customs (which are just customs) to laws (which get you in legal trouble if you break them).

Different societies have different social and cultural norms. These also change over time. As society develops, so do our values ​​and norms.

Cultural and social norms change even between locations within a country. For example, one range may be more conservative than another.

Finally, it's important to remember that many of these types of cultural norms overlap. Some customs are also taboomilaws while others do not. You must review the definitions to correctly place each standard in its correct category.


Baier, M. and Baier, M. (2013). Relations between social and legal norms.Social and legal norms: Towards a social legal understanding of normativity, 53-70.

Dastani, M., Torroni, P. & Yorke-Smith, N. (2018). Surveillance standards: a multidisciplinary perspective.The Knowledge Engineering Review,33. DOI:

Interis, M. (2011). Of the norms: a typology with discussion.American Journal of Economics and Sociology,70(2), 424-438. DOI:

Ullmann-Margalit, E. (2015).The emergence of norms.OUP Oxford.View on Google Books

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Chris Drew (PhD)

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dr Chris Drew is the founder of Useful Teacher. He holds a PhD in Education and has published more than 20 articles in academic journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

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