<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Social control

When a person violates a social norm, what happens? A driver caught speeding can receive a speeding ticket. A student who wears a bathrobe to class gets a warning from a professor. An adult belching loudly is avoided. All societies practice social control    , the regulation and enforcement of norms. The underlying goal of social control is to maintain social order    , an arrangement of practices and behaviors on which society’s members base their daily lives. Think of social order as an employee handbook and social control as a manager. When a worker violates a workplace guideline, the manager steps in to enforce the rules; when an employee is doing an exceptionally good job at following the rules, the manager may praise or promote the employee.

The means of enforcing rules are known as sanctions    . Sanctions can be positive as well as negative. Positive sanctions are rewards given for conforming to norms. A promotion at work is a positive sanction for working hard. Negative sanctions are punishments for violating norms. Being arrested is a punishment for shoplifting. Both types of sanctions play a role in social control.

Sociologists also classify sanctions as formal or informal. Although shoplifting, a form of social deviance, may be illegal, there are no laws dictating the proper way to scratch your nose. That doesn’t mean picking your nose in public won’t be punished; instead, you will encounter informal sanctions    . Informal sanctions emerge in face-to-face social interactions. For example, wearing flip-flops to an opera or swearing loudly in church may draw disapproving looks or even verbal reprimands, whereas behavior that is seen as positive—such as helping an old man carry grocery bags across the street—may receive positive informal reactions, such as a smile or pat on the back.

Formal sanctions , on the other hand, are ways to officially recognize and enforce norm violations. If a student violates her college’s code of conduct, for example, she might be expelled. Someone who speaks inappropriately to the boss could be fired. Someone who commits a crime may be arrested or imprisoned. On the positive side, a soldier who saves a life may receive an official commendation.

The table below shows the relationship between different types of sanctions.

Formal and informal sanctions may be positive or negative. Informal sanctions arise in social interactions, whereas formal sanctions officially enforce norms.
Informal/formal sanctions
Informal Formal
Positive An expression of thanks A promotion at work
Negative An angry comment A parking fine

Summary

Deviance is a violation of norms. Whether or not something is deviant depends on contextual definitions, the situation, and people’s response to the behavior. Society seeks to limit deviance through the use of sanctions that help maintain a system of social control.

Short answer

If given the choice, would you purchase an unusual car such as a hearse for everyday use? How would your friends, family, or significant other react? Since deviance is culturally defined, most of the decisions we make are dependent on the reactions of others. Is there anything the people in your life encourage you to do that you don’t? Why don’t you?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Think of a recent time when you used informal negative sanctions. To what act of deviance were you responding? How did your actions affect the deviant person or persons? How did your reaction help maintain social control?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Further research

Although we rarely think of it in this way, deviance can have a positive effect on society. Check out the Positive Deviance Initiative, a program initiated by Tufts University to promote social movements around the world that strive to improve people’s lives, at (External Link) .

References

Becker, Howard. 1963. Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance . New York: Free Press.

Schoepflin, Todd. 2011. “Deviant While Driving?” Everyday Sociology Blog, January 28. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Sumner, William Graham. 1955 [1906]. Folkways. New York, NY: Dover.

Questions & Answers

Define sociolisation, it's process and analyse different agents of sociolisation with relevant examples on each agent
Davies Reply
what are the consequences of schooling in view of norms of independence
Sitali Reply
social endurance
Olumide
what is the importance of durkhiem in sociology
Roselyn Reply
he analysis the role of human interaction and it's operation to explain, conceptualize and infer on social realities and the social representations.
Mary
what are the uses of culture
Folorunso Reply
Define society in relation to sociology
Tuxa Reply
society is a group of people who live same geographical area and has similar culture while sociology is the study society and how they interact.
yuusuf
origin of sociology
Ayshatrah
what is conflict theory, structural functionalism theory
Beene
what do sociologists study
Rachel Reply
The establishment; its economic system, education system, law, governance, society's behavior, society (in general), demographics, beliefs, cultures etc.
Leonard
aociologists study how society and people interact systematically and differencies of the world
yuusuf
they study group behaviour
owais
I have an assignment on sociology to interview people who have vulnerable diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, Diabetes etc can someone advice me how to approach them because it's very difficult for me to do it
Mary Reply
Treat them with kindness like you would anyone else. No one likes to be treated with kid gloves - it's insulting and makes anyone feel marginalized. Do not approach them with piety (i.e., asking 'Are you okay?' with the slight head tilt). It's insulting and they will likely dismiss you immediately.
andi
treat them like you are a patient like also giving them motivational stories, play games with them
Great
sociological perspective
Davison Reply
When you are sick what should you do?You consult a physician likewise when the society is not functioning well what should the government do?Also consult a sociologist
Joseph Reply
hi where are you live mr joseph
Abdinasir
yes Abdinasir "in somalia"
yuusuf
and you
yuusuf
hy
nura
Hy is a for skin in Swedish.
Joakim
hi
yuusuf
Hi
Joakim
Hello everyone, who is from cameroon here because am tired with the 2 weeks ghost town here especially in North and South West region and I have not even done my sociology assignment I don't know were to start
Mary
hi everyone
Tariq
am new in this field I was given an assignment any one knows how to, need help
Davison
just give a tip of the assignment
Mary
Can you bring the assignment's question on board? if no than how one will know the assignment's question?
Emmanuel
who here for now?
Emmanuel
Is there anyone in here?
Emmanuel
how sociology affects in them adversity in age of globilization
mohamed
I leave in Nigeria
Joseph
hi
saad
Sociology affects people in many ways for instance, urban people's thought, life style, way of living is totally different than people live in rural areas. availability of Internet has impact on people because we spend leisure time with friends if we get time but now It's change due to internet.
saad
It depends on your geographic location, government, and what type of physician you are in need of. Always - regardless of where you reside - make certain that your doctor is aligned with an organization for physicians seeking higher ethical standards.
andi
hi Great from Zimbabwe ....and I'm new in this field
Great
Am a Nigeria
Olumide
hai
Machila
Zambian,am new in the field
Davies
what is the relevance of sociology?
Love Reply
how conflict theory differs from functionalist theory in relation to education
kealeboga Reply
Education is a major social institution that helps transmit information, beliefs, and skills through formal training or teaching. Education plays a hug role across the world.
Timi
discuss how some symbolic interactionist theories view the family in relation to socialisation
kealeboga
how can counteract biases?
Hawa Reply
is so splendid
Aminu
hi
Aminu
how r u
Farhana
help me in my sociology questions
Farhana
yes
ali
hi sociologist society
yasir
what is social phenomena and it's nature
yasir
Hell am Ilham
Ilham
pls i want to understand dis course because my lecturer x not helping me at all he don't explain in details
Ilham
what do sociologists study?
Rachel Reply
define sociology of culture ?
Qamar
define sociology in culture ?
Qamar
Tell me how can I easily differentiate the methodology vs methods?
Rk Reply
hi
Praveen
Halo
Rk
hi
Hope
hallo how are you
Chilals
m fine nd u
ali
Good morning friends
Md
what is positivism anyone explain this
Amarkhan
The process of social change in the Caribbean society can not be analyzed using the major macro European paradigm as they ignore the caribbean's reality, to what extent is this statement true?
Keron Reply
True
Andrew
I am a PhD candidate and i am creating a Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹 centric model
Andrew
am a social work trainee.I want to thank you all for your questions and answers,they really useful to me. so thanks en keep it up
Fatoumatta
why is it true @Andrew
Keron
np. if u in trinidad i may fly home in a few weeks. provided i get a cheap flight for under 1000 us..lmao. you will do well i not worried. Be proud of your caribbean identity
Andrew
It is true because the theories and grounded in their culture.
Andrew
Think about it. If you sample is apples and my sample is 🍇 while the numbers may be the same the output would be different.
Andrew
forgive my fruit metaphor i love food
Andrew
Furthermore when you study Philosophy principles which are way higher than sociological principles you realize that the methodological assumptions (values) of various societies are different.
Andrew
Best FIT will always be better than Best PRACTICES! Create your own.
Andrew
are*
Andrew
It boils down to the demographics of your sample
Andrew
If you have to get a representative sample it must be representative of the Society aka the Population you sampling. Different Societal Structure different representative sample. hint hint. A British model can never be transferred to a Trinidad Society.
Andrew
this is a question for my sociology for project.... I need help
Keron
what is the caribbean's reality?
Keron
what is the Macro European Paradigm?
Keron
oh and Andrew I am from Jamaica
Keron
deconstruct the theme. Macro - large or big Caribbean Thinking (paradigm)
Andrew
just write why you think Jamaican thinking is better than England
Andrew
thats the crux of the question
Andrew
and the Caribbean's reality is?
Keron
sigh
Andrew
bro reality is relative
Andrew
the question demands u think
Andrew
how do u define Caribbean reality
Andrew
the music we listen, the food we eat, how we worship, our laws etc
Keron
What is psychology and discuss its major factors
Peace
explain in details five agents of sociology
Kaoma
Andrew what factors that makes people to stop socialising
Kaoma

Get the best Introduction to sociol... course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Introduction to sociology 2e' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask