- Slides: 15
Sociology Ch. 3 S. 2 Obj: Identify how the norms of society are enforced; describe the differences between positive and negative sanctions and between formal and informal sanctions.
Every society develops norms that reflect the cultural values its members consider important. For a society to run smoothly, these norms must be upheld. There are two basic means through which norms are enforced – internalization and sanctions.
Internalization of Norms When people come to believe that a particular norm is good, useful, and appropriate, they generally follow it and expect others to do the same. They do this because they have internalized the norm. Internalization is the process by which a norm becomes a part of an individual’s personality, thus conditioning that individual to conform to society’s expectations.
For example, when you sit down to eat, you automatically pick up your knife and fork. When the traffic signal ahead shows red, you stop without thinking. You do not take these actions because you fear being punished. Rather, you have internalized society’s norms concerning eating and driving.
Sanctions Most members of society follow norms without conscious thought. However, not everyone internalizes all of society’s norms. Some people must be motivated by sanctions. These are rewards or punishments used to enforce conformity to norms.
Positive Sanctions An action that rewards a particular kind of behavior is a positive sanction. People are introduced to positive sanctions early in life through interaction in the family. Most parents praise their children for good behavior. Positive sanctions are also a common form of control outside of the family.
Teachers react favorably to students who turn in good work, giving them good grades. Positive sanctions continue into adulthood. Employers often give pay raises to workers who show initiative and dedication. Cheers from teammates and the crowd are used to push athletes to try even harder. In all areas of life, ceremonies, ribbons, badges, and awards are used to reward and encourage conformity to society’s norms.
Negative Sanctions Positive sanctions are not always enough to ensure conformity. Society also employs negative sanctions to discourage undesired behavior. A negative sanction is a punishment or the threat of punishment used to enforce conformity. The threat of punishment is often enough to ensure acceptable behavior.
The possibility of having your car towed is usually enough to persuade you not to park in a “no parking” zone. However, if the threat of punishment is not enough, the actual punishment is there to remind you that conformity to the “no parking” rule is expected. Negative sanctions can range from frowns, ridicule, and rejection to fines, imprisonment, and even death. In general, the more important the norm is to social stability, the more serious the negative sanction.
Neither positive nor negative sanctions work if people are not sure that rewards or punishment will follow particular behavior. If you are rarely or never rewarded for good behavior nor punished for bad behavior, then sanctions quickly become meaningless to you. In other words, they lose their power to encourage or enforce conformity.
Formal Sanctions In addition to being positive or negative, sanctions also can be either formal or informal. A formal sanction is a reward or punishment given by a formal organization or regulatory agency, such as a school, business, or government. Negative formal sanctions include low grades, suspension from school, termination from a job, fines, and imprisonment. Graduation certificates, pay raises, promotions, awards, and medals are examples of positive formal sanctions.
Informal Sanctions Formal sanctions play a major role in maintaining social stability. However, the majority of norms are enforced informally. An informal sanction is a spontaneous expression of approval or disapproval given by an individual or a group.
Positive informal sanctions include standing ovations, compliments, smiles, pats on the back, and gifts. Negative informal sanctions include frowns, gossip, rebukes, insults, ridicule, and ostracism – exclusion from a particular group. Informal sanctions are particularly effective among teenagers, who consider group acceptance highly important. Few teenagers want to be told that their clothes are out of style.
Social Control The enforcing of norms through either internal or external means is called social control. The principal means of social control in all societies is self-control, which is learned through the internalization of norms. Various agents of social control perform external enforcement through the use of sanctions. These agents include authority figures, the police, the courts, religion, the family, and public opinion.
Individuals must follow certain rules of behavior if society is to function smoothly. If people ignore society’s basic norms, then the social order is in jeopardy. When a society’s methods for ensuring conformity break down, social stability is lost. No society can survive for long without an effective system of social control.