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Behavioral Norms: Perception through the Media

Dhavan V. Shah and Hernando Rojas


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Social norms entail learned expectations of behavior or categorization that are deemed desirable, or at least appear as unproblematic ( Sherif 1936 ) for a specific social group in a given situation (→  Social Norms ). Mass media have been found to help shape → perceptions of behavioral norms (→  Observational Learning ; Media and Perceptions of Reality ). These perceptions are consequential for health behaviors, social and sexual practices, democratic participation, and a range of other outcomes. Certain social norms that are considered of extreme importance are typically elevated to the category of legal norms and are enforced through institutional apparatuses. Other norms remain subject to less formalized modes of social control, including systems of rewards and punishments based precisely on sociability that include different combinations of isolation and recognition. Social scientists have long focused on certain key institutions of socialization in which those generalized expectations of behavior are learned by a new generation, namely the family, formal education institutes, and peer group interactions. Mass media are increasingly recognized as another important institution of socialization and cultivator of behavioral norms (→  Socialization by the Media ). Social scientists began to acknowledge media as an important socialization institution with the explosion of mass ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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