Berlin, July 27: It’s wrong to hurt other people and we shouldn’t ignore people when they are talking to us, thanks to certain social norms that act as the glue to govern social institutions and hold humans societies together, but how do we acquire these norms in the first place?
Researchers Marco Schmidt and Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology aim to get a better understanding of this important ‘social glue’ by reviewing research on children’s enforcement of social norms, the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science reported.
“Social norms are crucial for understanding human social interactions, social arrangements, and human cooperation more generally. But we can only fully grasp the existence of social norms in humans if we look into the cradle,” says Schmidt, according to a university statement.
Schmidt and Tomasello were specifically interested in understanding children’s use of a type of norm called constitutive norms. Police, for example, are given their power through the ‘consent of the governed,’ which entitles them to do all sorts of things that we would never allow an average citizen to do.
Constitutive norms are especially important in rule games like chess. So, for example, if you move a pawn backward in a game, you’re not just violating a norm by failing to follow a particular convention, you’re also not playing the game everyone agreed upon.
In recent years, Schmidt and Tomasello, along with Hannes Rakoczy of the University of Gottingen, have conducted several studies with the aim of examining how children use constitutive norms and begin thinking of them as something like a mutual social agreement.
In one study, two-and-three year-old children watched a puppet, who announced that she would now ‘dax’. The puppet proceeded to perform an action that was different from what they had seen an adult refer to as ‘daxing’ earlier.
Many of the children objected to this rule violation and the three-year-olds specifically made norm-based objections, such as “It doesn’t work like that. You have to do it like this”.
“Every parent recognizes this kind of behaviour – young children insisting that people follow the rules – but what is surprising is how sophisticated children are in calibrating their behaviour to fit the circumstances,” said Tomasello.