- Normality (also known as normalcy) is the state of being normal. Behaviour can be normal for an individual (intrapersonal normality) when it is consistent with the most common behaviour for that person. Normal is also used to describe when someone’s behaviour conforms to the most common behaviour in society (known as conforming to the norm). Definitions of normality vary by person, time, place, and situation – it changes along with changing societal standards and norms. Normal behaviour is often only recognized in contrast to abnormality. In its simplest form, normality is seen as good while abnormality is seen as bad. Someone being seen as “normal” or “not normal” can have social ramifications, including being included, excluded or stigmatized by larger society.
Although it is difficult to define normality, since it is a flexible concept, the existence of these ramifications also makes it an important definition. The study of what is normal is called normatology – this field attempts to develop an operational definition distinguishing between normality and abnormality (or pathology). The general question of ‘What is normal?’ is discussed in many fields, including philosophy, psychology and sociology. The most comprehensive attempt to distinguish normality from abnormality comes from clinical psychology, in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual. The DSM shows how normality is dependent on situation, how it changes throughout history and how it often involves value judgements.
- Individuals’ behaviours are guided by what they perceive to be society’s expectations and their peers norms. People measure the appropriateness of their actions by how far away they are from those social norms. However, what is perceived as the norm may or may not actually be the most common behaviour. In some cases of pluralistic ignorance, most people falsely believe the social norm is one thing, but in fact very few people hold that view.
When people are made more aware of a social norm, particularly a descriptive norm (a norm describing what is done), their behaviour changes to become closer to that norm. The power of these norms can be harnessed by social norms marketing, where the social norm is advertised to people in an attempt to stop extreme behaviour, such as binge drinking. However, people at the other extreme (very little alcohol consumption) are equally likely to change their behaviour to become closer to the norm, in this case by increasing alcohol consumption . Instead of using descriptive norms, more effective social norms marketing may use injunctive norms. Instead of describing what behaviour is most commonly done, an injunctive norm is what is approved or disapproved of by society. When individuals become aware of the injunctive norm, only the extremes will change their behaviour (by decreasing alcohol consumption) without the boomerang effect of under-indulgers increasing their drinking.
- The social norms that guide people are not always normal for everyone. Behaviours that are abnormal for most people may be considered normal for a subgroup or subculture. For example, normal college student behaviour may be to party and drink alcohol, but for a subculture of religious students, normal behaviour may be to go to church and pursue religion related activities. Subcultures may actively reject “normal” behaviour, instead replacing society norms with their own.
- ^ Bartlett, Steven James (2011). Normality Does Not Equal Mental Health: The Need to Look Elsewhere for Standards of Good Psychological Health. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0-313-39931-X, 9780313399312 Check
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- ^ Modis, Theodore (March 2007). “The normal, the natural, and the harmonic”. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 74 (3): 391–398. Retrieved December 5.
- ^ Durkheim, Émile (1982). Rules of Sociological Method. New York: Free Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-02-907940-9.
- ^ Jones, Robert Alun (1986). mile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. pp. 60–81.
- ^ Schultz, P. Wesley; Jessica M. Nola, Robert B. Cialdini, Noah J. Goldstein, Vladas Griskevicius (May 2007). “The Constructive, Destructive, and Reconstructive Power of Social Norms”. Psychological Science. 18 (5): 429–434.
- ^ Magolda, Peter; Kelsey Ebben (January 2008). “Students Serving Christ: Understanding the Role of Student Subcultures on a College Campus”. You have full text access to this contentAnthropology & Education Quarterly 32 (2): 138–158.