What Is a Culture Norm?

Getty Images Europe/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Cultural norms are behavioral standards that a society adopts as a whole and follows when interacting with one another. They are different according to each culture. Ashley Crossman for About.com explains that Americans value eye contact during conversation, but many Asian cultures consider eye contact to be rude. Cultural norms are further broken down by sociologists into four subcategories, including folkways, mores, taboos and laws.

Generally speaking, the members of a society judge one another when a person breaks a cultural norm. This is especially true when people behave in a manner that violates a taboo, which is a norm that is so strongly upheld that breaching it results in extreme judgment and shaming from others. Examples include drug addiction, prostitution, incest and bestiality.

Breaking a folkway is a less-criticized offense because folkways are not considered as morally consequential as taboos. An example of a folkway is when a person attempts to shake another person’s hand during a first meeting and does not see the gesture returned. While the action is a bit offensive, it is not reprehensible enough to warrant feelings of disgust toward that person.

Mores are norms that define the standards of moral behavior within a culture. A common example is the unacceptability to some people that couples give birth to a child out of wedlock. Lastly, laws are norms that are clearly defined and upheld by a culture’s governing body.