Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Heteronormativity


The punishment of social misconduct is a powerful mechanism for stabilizing high levels of cooperation among unrelated individuals. It is regularly assumed that humans have a universal disposition to punish social norm violators, which is sometimes labelled “universal structure of human morality” or “pure aversion to social betrayal”. Here we present evidence that, contrary to this hypothesis, the propensity to punish a moral norm violator varies among participants with different career trajectories. In anonymous real-life conditions, future teachers punished a talented but immoral young violinist: they voted against her in an important music competition when they had been informed of her previous blatant misconduct toward fellow violin students. In contrast, future police officers and high school students did not punish. This variation among socio-professional categories indicates that the punishment of norm violators is not entirely explained by an aversion to social betrayal. We suggest that context specificity plays an important role in normative behaviour; people seem inclined to enforce social norms only in situations that are familiar, relevant for their social category, and possibly strategically advantageous.

Concepts: Sociology, Heteronormativity, Morality, Mores


Rigorous evidence of the effectiveness of male engagement interventions, particularly on how these interventions impact relationship power dynamics and women’s decision-making, remains limited. This study assessed the impact of the Bandebereho gender-transformative couples' intervention on impact on multiple behavioral and health-related outcomes influenced by gender norms and power relations.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Randomized controlled trial, Gender, Gender role, Woman, Heteronormativity


Little is known about how gender norms regulate adolescents' lives across different cultural settings. This study aims to illustrate what is considered as violating gender norms for boys and girls in four urban poor sites as well as the consequences that follow the challenging of gender norms.

Concepts: Female, Sociology, Woman, Heteronormativity, Man, Cross-cultural communication


All known human societies have maintained social order by enforcing compliance with social norms. The biological mechanisms underlying norm compliance are, however, hardly understood. We show that the right lateral prefrontal cortex (rLPFC) is involved in both voluntary and sanction-induced norm compliance. Both types of compliance could be changed by varying neural excitability of this brain region with transcranial direct current stimulation, but they were affected in opposite ways, suggesting that the stimulated region plays a fundamentally different role in voluntary and sanction-based compliance. Brain stimulation had a particularly strong effect for compliance based on socially constituted sanctions, while it left beliefs about what the norm prescribes and about subjectively expected sanctions unaffected. Our findings suggest that rLPFC activity is a key biological prerequisite for an evolutionarily and socially important aspect of human behavior.

Concepts: Brain, Sociology, Cerebrum, Frontal lobe, Heteronormativity, Premotor cortex


Research conducted on workplace incivility-a low intensity form of deviant behavior-has generally shown that women report higher levels of incivility at work. However, to date, it is unclear as to whether women are primarily treated uncivilly by men (i.e., members of the socially dominant group/out-group) or other women (i.e., members of in-group) in organizations. In light of different theorizing surrounding gender and incivility, we examine whether women experience increased incivility from other women or men, and whether this effect is amplified for women who exhibit higher agency and less communion at work given that these traits and behaviors violate stereotypical gender norms. Across three complementary studies, results indicate that women report experiencing more incivility from other women than from men, with this effect being amplified for women who are more agentic at work. Further, agentic women who experience increased female-instigated incivility from their coworkers report lower well-being (job satisfaction, psychological vitality) and increased work withdrawal (turnover intentions). Theoretical implications tied to gender and incivility are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Gender, Sociology, Gender role, Woman, Gender identity, Heteronormativity, Transgender, Man


Human behavior is strongly affected by culturally transmitted norms and values. Certain norms are internalized (i.e., acting according to a norm becomes an end in itself rather than merely a tool in achieving certain goals or avoiding social sanctions). Humans' capacity to internalize norms likely evolved in our ancestors to simplify solving certain challenges-including social ones. Here we study theoretically the evolutionary origins of the capacity to internalize norms. In our models, individuals can choose to participate in collective actions as well as punish free riders. In making their decisions, individuals attempt to maximize a utility function in which normative values are initially irrelevant but play an increasingly important role if the ability to internalize norms emerges. Using agent-based simulations, we show that norm internalization evolves under a wide range of conditions so that cooperation becomes “instinctive.” Norm internalization evolves much more easily and has much larger effects on behavior if groups promote peer punishment of free riders. Promoting only participation in collective actions is not effective. Typically, intermediate levels of norm internalization are most frequent but there are also cases with relatively small frequencies of “oversocialized” individuals willing to make extreme sacrifices for their groups no matter material costs, as well as “undersocialized” individuals completely immune to social norms. Evolving the ability to internalize norms was likely a crucial step on the path to large-scale human cooperation.

Concepts: Evolution, Sociology, Heteronormativity, Social philosophy, Norm


Social norms are an important element in explaining how humans achieve very high levels of cooperative activity. It is widely observed that, when norms can be enforced by peer punishment, groups are able to resolve social dilemmas in prosocial, cooperative ways. Here we show that punishment can also encourage participation in destructive behaviours that are harmful to group welfare, and that this phenomenon is mediated by a social norm. In a variation of a public goods game, in which the return to investment is negative for both group and individual, we find that the opportunity to punish led to higher levels of contribution, thereby harming collective payoffs. A second experiment confirmed that, independently of whether punishment is available, a majority of subjects regard the efficient behaviour of non-contribution as socially inappropriate. The results show that simply providing a punishment opportunity does not guarantee that punishment will be used for socially beneficial ends, because the social norms that influence punishment behaviour may themselves be destructive.Punishment by peers can enforce social norms, such as contributing to a public good. Here, Abbink and colleagues show that individuals will enforce norms even when contributions reduce the net benefit of the group, resulting in the maintenance of wasteful contributions.

Concepts: Sociology, Heteronormativity, Convention, Norm, Mores


Indirect reciprocity is a major mechanism in the maintenance of cooperation among unrelated individuals. Indirect reciprocity leads to conditional cooperation according to social norms that discriminate the good (those who deserve to be rewarded with help) and the bad (those who should be punished by refusal of help). Despite intensive research, however, there is no definitive consensus on what social norms best promote cooperation through indirect reciprocity, and it remains unclear even how those who refuse to help the bad should be assessed. Here, we propose a new simple norm called “Staying” that prescribes abstaining from assessment. Under the Staying norm, the image of the person who makes the decision to give help stays the same as in the last assessment if the person on the receiving end has a bad image. In this case, the choice about whether or not to give help to the potential receiver does not affect the image of the potential giver. We analyze the Staying norm in terms of evolutionary game theory and demonstrate that Staying is most effective in establishing cooperation compared to the prevailing social norms, which rely on constant monitoring and unconditional assessment. The application of Staying suggests that the strict application of moral judgment is limited.

Concepts: Game theory, Sociology, Heteronormativity, Norm, Mores


Since the sinking of the Titanic, there has been a widespread belief that the social norm of “women and children first” (WCF) gives women a survival advantage over men in maritime disasters, and that captains and crew members give priority to passengers. We analyze a database of 18 maritime disasters spanning three centuries, covering the fate of over 15,000 individuals of more than 30 nationalities. Our results provide a unique picture of maritime disasters. Women have a distinct survival disadvantage compared with men. Captains and crew survive at a significantly higher rate than passengers. We also find that: the captain has the power to enforce normative behavior; there seems to be no association between duration of a disaster and the impact of social norms; women fare no better when they constitute a small share of the ship’s complement; the length of the voyage before the disaster appears to have no impact on women’s relative survival rate; the sex gap in survival rates has declined since World War I; and women have a larger disadvantage in British shipwrecks. Taken together, our findings show that human behavior in life-and-death situations is best captured by the expression “every man for himself.”

Concepts: Sociology, Heteronormativity, Survival rate, Convention, Relative survival, Norm


Recent waves of immigration to Western nations have fueled a debate over the consequences of ethnic diversity for social cohesion. One prominent argument in this debate holds that diversity is detrimental to trust and cooperation because individuals in heterogeneous communities face difficulties in enforcing social norms across ethnic lines. We examine this proposition in a field experiment involving real-life interactions among residents of multiethnic German neighborhoods. We find significant ethnic asymmetries in the pattern of norm enforcement: Members of the majority “native” German population are more active in sanctioning norm violations, while ethnic minorities are more likely to find themselves the target of sanctions. We interpret these results in light of prevailing status inequalities between ethnic minorities and the native majority. We further calculate that, as a result of ethnic discrimination, social control is likely to rise in communities with moderate minority population shares.

Concepts: United States, Sociology, United Kingdom, Heteronormativity, Anomie, Affirmative action