The sociological concept of norm is closely allied to that of role, which is commonly defined as a set of norms attached to a social position. Although both concepts have been central to functionalist sociology, and especially the theorizing of social order in the writings of Talcott Parsons, they have become less fashionable since the 1960s, not least because they seem to suggest a fixed set of expectations of individual behaviour and a static model of social interaction. Interactionist sociology (with its focus on the negotiation of meanings), ethnomethodology, and now post-modernist theory, all tend to emphasize the complexity and diversity of meanings, and the shifting and fragmented nature of individual identities, in which the static notion of norm has little place. Other theorists, notably Marxists, have emphasized the importance of power and coercion rather than normative consensus to the maintenance of social order.
The contrast between the Parsonsian and social identity theories of norms is succinctly drawn in Francesca Cancian's What are Norms? (1975). The former suggests that norms are beliefs about what individuals ought to do, and become part of a person's motivation through socialization, so that people come to act in conformity with the norms of their society precisely because they want to conform. However, from the latter perspective norms are perceptions of what actions will lead others to validate an identity (rather than personal beliefs), so that people are thought to conform to norms in order to demonstrate to themselves and others that they are a particular kind of person. Cancian's studies (of a Mexican Indian community) tend to vindicate this interpretation.
norm / nôrm/ • n. 1. (the norm) something that is usual, typical, or standard: this system has been the norm in Germany for decades. ∎ (usu. norms) a standard or pattern, esp. of social behavior, that is typical or expected of a group: the norms of good behavior in the civil service. ∎ a required standard; a level to be complied with or reached: the 7% pay norm had been breached again. 2. Math. the product of a complex number and its conjugate, equal to the sum of the squares of its real and imaginary components, or the positive square root of this sum. ∎ an analogous quantity used to represent the magnitude of a vector.
The terms "norm" and "normal" generally refer to what is customary or usual, or sometimes to what is desirable. In a technical sense, "norm" applies to standards or criteria, and may be applied to either a measurable variable, such as height or weight, or to a way of behaving. In medicine and in public health, "normal" has several meanings: it can mean healthy, or in a more precise sense it may mean that the value of a variable such as temperature or blood pressure is within generally accepted limits applicable to healthy people. In statistics, a normal distribution is defined as a continuous frequency distribution of infinite range in which values are symmetrically distributed about a central mean.
John M. Last
(see also: Assessment of Health Status; Health; Statistics for Public Health )
A measure of central tendency in statistics, describing a value's frequency.
In testing, norms are figures describing the frequency with which particular scores appear. They provide information about whether a score is above or below average and about what percentage of the persons tested received that score. Norms may apply to tests of mental ability or achievement, such as IQ tests or SATs. They are also used in personality assessment to measure variables such as anxiety, introversion-extroversion, and paranoia . The term "norm" may also refer to social norms, unwritten social rules that define acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a variety of situations.
See also Mean; Median; Mode
So normal (-AL1) rectangular, perpendicular XVII; conforming to a standard XIX (n. school, after F. école normale). — F. normal or (of schools) L. normālis. Hence normalcy, normality, normalize XIX.