In psychology, group norms refer to the unwritten and implicit rules that guide the behavior of individuals within a particular social group. These norms can be either positive or negative and play a critical role in shaping how group members interact with one another, influence one another, and maintain order within the group. Group norms are established through a combination of factors, including the group's goals, values, and culture, as well as the personalities and behaviors of individual members.
Positive group norms can include behaviors such as showing respect to one another, actively listening to others, and valuing diversity within the group. Examples of positive group norms can be seen in groups that promote teamwork, collaboration, and mutual support, such as sports teams, therapy groups, and social clubs.
Negative group norms, on the other hand, can include behaviors such as gossiping, bullying, and excluding certain members from the group. Negative group norms can be seen in groups that have a strong sense of hierarchy or a culture of competition, such as some workplaces or cliques in high school.
One classic study on group norms was conducted by Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues in the 1930s. In the study, participants were placed in a dark room and asked to estimate the movement of a small light. The estimates of individuals varied widely, but when participants were placed in groups and asked to provide a group estimate, the individual estimates converged toward the group norm. This study demonstrated the power of group norms to influence individual behavior.
Similar to group norms are cultural norms, which are shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that are accepted within a particular society or culture. For example, in some cultures, it is considered polite to remove one's shoes when entering someone's home, while in others, it is customary to keep them on. Cultural norms can be reflected in many aspects of life, including language, dress, and social interactions.
Another similar concept is social norms, which are more specific rules and expectations for behavior within a particular social context. For example, social norms can dictate appropriate behavior in settings such as restaurants, public transportation, and places of worship.
Group norms can also be related to conformity, which is the tendency to adjust one's behavior or attitudes to fit in with a particular group. Conformity can be influenced by factors such as the size and unanimity of the group, as well as the individual's desire for social acceptance.
In conclusion, group norms are unwritten rules that guide the behavior of individuals within a particular social group. They can be positive or negative and are shaped by a combination of factors, including the group's goals, values, and culture, as well as the personalities and behaviors of individual members. Group norms can have a powerful influence on individual behavior and can be related to other concepts such as conformity, cultural norms, and social norms.