Normative orientation essentially translates to how the individual’s character and behavior are influenced by the standards of the surrounding culture. This is a powerful force, as conforming to norms in place within the culture is a deeply ingrained trait in most people from infancy. The standards of the society are presented as such; consequently, it is natural that most people develop in accordance with them. A basic example of normative orientation occurring in youth is the average child’s ambition to do well in school.
Everything in their background has conditioned them, directly and indirectly, to view this as a desirable thing, and making good grades is an achievement perfectly representing normative orientation in action. The same may be said of seeking to be popular in school; the culture places a high value on being personally liked, so the young individual is oriented to create this reality. Normative orientation also gains its impact in an exponential manner; as more people accept the pervasive norms, the greater the weight of them.
If reasons arise within an individual that prompt them to challenge the norms, the influence is no less strong because it reflects a totality of what is considered acceptable. The force of the normative is such, in fact, that it may often overshadow personal inclinations to the contrary, and of significant power themselves. For example, many men enter into heterosexual relationships because the culture expects this of them. As with school, everything they have been exposed to indicates that this course most complies with the society’s expectations of them, and to such a degree that some of these men suppress innate homosexuality.
They either fail to consciously acknowledge the sexual orientation or deliberately refuse to accept it, because it is at variance with the norm and is then undesirable. Another instance of normative orientation as dictating behavior against personal desires may be seen in the black woman who, attracted to the white man, denies the level of attraction. It is present, but her normative orientation sways her more forcefully to suppress it because interracial relationships may be, in her own cultural background, a violation of the norm.