• Question: how big of an impact are social norms on making decisions in everyday life?

    Asked by anon-282519 on 27 Mar 2021.
    • Photo: anon

      anon answered on 8 Mar 2021:

      Hi SkyeC,


      I think you can split this into those who want to follow social norms and thus make decisions in everyday life to follow these, and those that want the exact opposite! Though why there is a difference isn’t exactly clear, but I will attempt to outline some ideas!

      We can look at the individual to see why some may and some may not use their judgments of social norms on decisions made. Some do it for just reasons, things like wanting to defy the social norms for ethical reasons, like prevalent racist and sexist views of society.

      So as we can see there can an individual difference, but also there can be a societal or generational difference. If we think to Asch’s line study in 1950s (where people chose the wrong answer on purpose to fit it), society back then was a lot more about conformity to conventional ways.

      Your question also brings in the notion of decision making (which I won’t go over!) – how do our thoughts and decision-making faculties work? Are they that influenced by wanting to conform/not conform or is there something else driving our decisions!?

    • Photo: Dennis Relojo-Howell

      Dennis Relojo-Howell answered on 9 Mar 2021: last edited 9 Mar 2021 6:27 pm

      Hi SkyeC. Social norms play an essential role in our daily decisions. There’s fascinating neuroimaging research carried out in 2017 which shows that social-based decisions activate specific brain areas such as the anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and others lateral prefrontal cortices.

      I also want to share my personal experience. I lived in five different countries before moving here in Britain in 2013 (Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Germany). As you can imagine, these countries have their own social norms and customs, all of which shaped me in one way or another. One example is that in many of the countries I lived in before I moved here, you don’t call your lecturers (even at MSc and PhD levels) by their first names. It took me a while to get used to the custom here in Britain (where MSc and PhD students call their research supervisor by their names) until my research supervisors told me to just stop calling them Sir and Ma’am ‘because I sound too formal’.