Normative Collective Behavior: A Classification of Societal Norms

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American Journal of Sociology


To the four factors offered by F. H. Allport as explaining the shape of conformity curves, the present article adds a fifth, namely, the nature of the norm regulating the conformity behavior. Some norms are stated in such a way that overconformity is impossible; other norms, however, are stated in such a way that overconformity is possible. The J-curve is characteristic in situations where overconformity is impossible and where the norms is not too difficult for most persons. In other situations skewed normal curves may be expected. For purposes of measuring conformity behavior, a classification of societal norms based on the susceptibility to measurement of deviations from the norms is presented. Suggestions with respect to measuring techniques are also presented.

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