What Is an Informal Norm?

Informal norms are societal rules that are unspoken and unwritten, but are generally understood by all members of a society. While failing to adhere to an informal norm does not result in punishment or imprisonment, as occurs when the law is broken, it does result in social repercussions.

Informal norms are rules that govern human conduct within a society. These rules are based on a society’s cultural values, which is a majority consensus on behavior and actions that are upstanding and important. The purpose of informal norms are to maintain order within a society.

These rules are ingrained into the members of a society as children and continue to be constantly learned throughout life. Social etiquette is an example of an informal norm. Informal norms often accept practices that are against the law but are not harmful to society, such as poaching.

Informal norms are also classified as folkways or mores. Folkways are expected to be followed, and result in disdain or reprimand when broken. Mores are a more serious category of informal norms, the breaking of which leads to social and/or religious exclusion. Examples of mores include serious crimes that negatively affect the members of a community, such as theft or murder.