Norms are a fundamental concept in the social sciences. They are most commonly defined as rules or expectations that are socially enforced. Norms may be prescriptive (encouraging positive behavior; for example, “be honest”) or proscriptive (discouraging negative behavior; for example, “do not cheat”). The term is also sometimes used to refer to patterns of behavior and internalized values. Norms are important for their contribution to social order. Governments (and other hierarchies) and markets are argued to contribute to order, as are individual prosocial motivations. But the norms enforced through groups and networks also play an important role. Norms have long been used to explain behavior, but in recent years, scholars have increasingly focused on explaining norms themselves—in particular, their emergence and enforcement.
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