What is normal? Exploring folkways, mores, and taboos | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

What is normal? Exploring folkways, mores, and taboos | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

Voiceover: Psychologists and
sociologists study human behavior. As they study behavior, they’re often
asked, what is normal? Who decides what behavior is normal? How do we determine if a person’s behavior
is strange, or even criminal? The individuals who seek to understand
those questions and define their answers
actually studies norms. Now basically speaking, norms are standards for what kinds of behavior are acceptable and what kinds
aren’t. There are unwritten rules that dictate how
a person should behave in a given situation around a given
group of people. Those rules are defined by that group of people, and are usually guided by some
sort of moral standard or ethical value that is
easily understood and internalized by all the individuals in
the group. So norms provide structure within groups
and set specific standards for how people can
behave. And they’re heavily dependent on context,
the physical location, and can even change over time, as we’ll
see. So let’s go through a very simple example. Imagine you’re at a baseball game and your
favorite player hits a home run, so you stand up and you yell
very loudly. Now in this context, in this group of
individuals, this behavior’s very normal. Yelling is considered acceptable, and it’s
even encouraged, among other people attending
the game with you because when you yell in this context,
you’re supporting the player and the team. Now, imagine you’re in a meeting at work,
and while your boss is talking, you stand up and
yell very loudly. In this context, within this group of individuals your behavior is not normal or
acceptable. Again, in the same way that norms vary
based on context or situation, they also vary significantly from culture
to culture or from country to country. As a example, individuals from America
often greet each other with a simple hello, or a
handshake. Whereas in European countries, it is
customary to greet someone with a kiss on the cheek. And lastly, norms can change over time, as
individuals’ attitudes shift, or circumstances change, that allow
different types of behavior to become valued. So let’s use baseball as an example again. When Americans first began playing
baseball it was only considered normal for men to
play. So women were not included in professional
baseball. However, when many of the nation’s men
were drafted to fight in World War II, women began playing the
sport to keep Americans entertained. And the circumstances at the time caused a
shift in the valued behavior. So by the time the war ended and men
returned to baseball, it was normal for both women and men to
professionally play baseball. To review, norms are standards for
behavior that are set within groups of individuals and are dependent on specific situations, locations, and
historical circumstances. In addition to those characteristics,
norms also can be classified into four distinct
groups. You have folkways, mores, taboos and laws. And these groups basically dictate how
important the norm is and consequences from deviating
from the norm. So first up are folkways. Folkways are the most mild type of norm. They’re basically just common rules or
manners that we’re supposed to follow on a day-to-day
basis. Folkways are typically traditions that
individuals have followed for a long time, and are very basic, everyday
courtesies. Thinks like opening a door for someone or
helping a person who’s dropped an item in the grocery store or
just saying thank you. If you don’t engage in a folkway, the consequences are usually not severe or
consistent. There’s no actual punishment or strong
issue with refusing to help a person whose dropped an item in a
grocery store. It just might be seen as rude, so those
are folkways. Now, let’s talk about mores. I know it looks like mores, but it’s
actually pronounced mores. And mores are norms that are based on some
moral value or belief. And because mores are dependent on the
group’s understanding of right and wrong they generally produce
strong feelings. And there’s usually a reaction if the
mores is violated, so a simple example of a mores
is truthfulness. Most people feel pretty strongly that
individuals should tell the truth because that’s the right thing
to do. So when public figures are not truthful,
there’s usually outrage and a sense that the individual has done
something morally wrong. However, mores do not always have serious
consequences. Now laws, laws are norms that are still based on the understanding of right and
wrong. But they have more formal and consistent
consequences. So using our more example, imagine that a
public figure lies but they happen to lie while
under oath. No in this situation they’ve done
something morally wrong which is lying that also happens to violate the
laws of the court. So in this case, lying under oath, they would have a specific punishment that fits
the crime. And that said violation of laws like jay
walking or very severe like murder. And there isn’t always outrage when a law
is violated depends on the type of law that
was broken. Now taboos are behaviors that are
completely forbidden in any circumstance. They’re based in a deep understanding of
right and wrong and the violation of a taboo results in consequences that
are far more extreme than more. Now, it is a norm to not engage in taboos,
and if a taboo is committed, it is considered
very immoral behavior. Taboos are often punishable by law and
taboos also usually result in severe disgust by
members of the community. In two common examples of taboo are incest
or sexual relations among family members. And cannibalism, eating human flesh. So now that we’ve gone over these types of
norms, let’s review it with an example. So imagine you’re back at that baseball
game and you look over and see your friend and you notice that their
zipper on their pants has come undone. So their fly is open. Now example of a folkway would be to tell
your friend that their zipper is down. Now that’s just common courtesy. But if you don’t tell your friend then
there’s no specific consequence other than your
friend maybe being embarrassed. So that’s, that would be a folkway. Now imagine that you see another friend
who’s taken of their shirt and painted their teams logo
on their chest. Now let’s see if you’re pretty strongly
about modesty so you think it’s wrong that your friend has taken off his shirt
and is exposing so much skin. See this would be example for more. So you feel it’s wrong for you friend to
show this much skin. There is no serious consequence for his
behavior other than your disapproval. So that would be a more. Now imagine that same friend has now
removed all of his clothes and decides to go streaking
across the field. In this situation he has now broken a law
and will receive some kind of punishment. However, within this context there
probably isn’t much outrage or disgust. In fact, the crowd is probably laughing or
maybe cheering as your naked friend is chased around the
baseball field. Now I won’t give an example of a taboo
that could occur here, being that baseball games are
usually a family event. But just know that if a taboo were to
occur, it would be met with overwhelming disgust and
would have serious legal consequences. So on that note, I’d like to conclude this
discussion on norms.

14 thoughts on “What is normal? Exploring folkways, mores, and taboos | Behavior | MCAT | Khan Academy

  1. For people who are deeply religious and/or very conservative, the streaking might violate a taboo, since it would be seen as violating the law of God (and, if he belonged to such a religion himself, he would face excommunication).

    As for public figures lying, they could still get reelected and have supporters.

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