Deviation from social norms

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  • Created by: izzy
  • Created on: 13-06-13 12:18

Deviation from social norms (DSN)

Every society has commonly accepted standards of behaviour. Sometimes these are written and form the set of laws that govern behaviour. Sometimes these norms of behaviour are unwritten but generally accepted; examples might include the British habit of queuing in shops and at ticket offices or not standing too close to people when you are talking to them. You can immediately see that these social norms of behaviour very between different cultures. In some countries queuing is uncommon, while in conversation people may stand closer than someone from the UK would find comfortable.

Whether written into the legal systems or hat we call implicit, i.e. generally accepted but not legally binding, social norms allow for the regulation of normal social behaviour. One approach to defining abnormality, therefore, is to consider deviations from social norms as an indication of abnormality. In many cases this can be clear cut, such as the patient with schizophrenia who reports hearing voices, or the person with obsessive-compulsive disorder who washes their hands 50 times a day. So this definition can provide an indication of disordered behaviour. However there are clear limitations with this approach:

  • Behaviour that deviates from social norms is not always a sign of psychopathology. Eccentricity for instance might involve avoiding the cracks in the…


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