Every society has expectations about how its members should and should not behave. A norm is a guideline or an expectation for behavior. Each society makes up its own rules for behavior and decides when those rules have been violated and what to do about it. Norms change constantly.
Norms differ widely among societies, and they can even differ from group to group within the same society.
Example: The way we are expected to behave in church differs from the way we are expected to behave at a party, which also differs from the way we should behave in a classroom.
Example: In some African countries, it’s acceptable for people in movie theaters to yell frequently and make loud comments about the film. In the United States, people are expected to sit quietly during a movie, and shouting would be unacceptable.
Example: In the United States in the 1950s, a woman almost never asked a man out on a date, nor did she pay for the date. While some traditional norms for dating prevail, most women today feel comfortable asking men out on dates and paying for some or even all of the expenses.
Sociologists have separated norms into four categories: folkways, mores, laws, and taboos.