Social Norms

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Social Norms
Social Influence
1992). Partners in successful marriages also tend to share each other’s view of themselves and the other, even if that view is a negative one (Swann, De La Ronde, & Hixon,
1994). The perception that the relationship is fair and equitable also increases marital
satisfaction (Grote & Clark, 2001). After the birth of a first child, for example, many
wives find that they have much more work than they had anticipated. If their husbands
do not share this work to the degree they had expected, wives’ marital satisfaction tends
to decrease (Hackel & Ruble, 1992; McNulty & Karney, 2004).
One particularly interesting line of research suggests that even brief observations of
couples’ interactions can predict whether couples will divorce and when (Driver &
Gottman, 2004). Among couples who divorced relatively soon after marriage, the partners tended to express both positive and negative feelings toward one another, but they
were unable to control the way they expressed these feelings, especially the negative
ones. Communication became increasingly hurtful and eventually broke down (Driver
et al., 2003). A different picture emerged, however, in couples who divorced after many
years of marriage. These people did not necessarily express negative emotions toward
one another. They simply became less and less likely to communicate any feelings. The
increasing emotional distance between the spouses created a sense of isolation that
eventually led to divorce (Gottman & Levenson, 2002). These findings can help us
understand why people in a long, and apparently strong, marriage might suddenly
announce that they are divorcing—and why they may remain friends afterward. These
people may still like each other, but no longer love each other.
Social Influence
䉴 What social rules shape our behavior?
So far, we have considered social cognition, the mental processes associated with people’s
perceptions of, and reactions to, other people. Let’s now explore social influence, the
process through which individuals and groups directly and indirectly influence a person’s
thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Research has shown, for example, that suicide rates
increase following well-publicized suicides and that murder rates increase after wellpublicized homicides (Jamieson, Jamieson, & Romer, 2003). Do these correlations mean
that media coverage of violence triggers similar violence? As described in the chapter on
learning, televised violence can play a causal role in aggressive behavior, but there are other
reasons to believe that when murders or suicides become media events, they stimulate
imitators. For one thing, many of the people who kill themselves after a widely reported
suicide are similar to the original victim in some respect (Cialdini, 2001). For example,
after German television reported a story about a young man who committed suicide by
jumping in front of a train, there was a dramatic increase in the number of young German men who committed suicide in the same way (Schmidtke & Hafner, 1988). This
phenomenon—known as “copycat” violence—illustrates the effects of social influence.
Social Norms
norms Learned, socially based rules
that prescribe what people should or
should not do in various situations.
The most common, yet subtle, form of social influence is communicated through social
norms. Norms are learned, socially based rules that tell people what they should or
should not do in various situations (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Parents, teachers,
members of the clergy, peers, and other agents of culture transmit these norms. Because
of the power of norms, people often follow them automatically. In North America and
Britain, for example, norms tell us that we should get in line to buy a movie ticket
rather than crowd around the box office window. They also lead us to expect that others will do the same. By informing people of what is expected of them and others,
norms make social situations clearer, more predictable, and more comfortable.
One particularly powerful norm is reciprocity, the tendency to respond to others as
they have acted toward you (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Restaurant servers often take
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