According to Coleman both proscriptive and prescriptive norms apply to certain actions with an accepted focus making them social norms. These are types of actions where the actor and another person (actor) automatically engages sanctioned behavior so they are a part of the control of what is going on. These norms are either proscriptive where the focal action is discouraged such as inappropriate laughter as exemplified during a somber moment or ceremony where the action receives negative feedback discouraging such behavior. The other focused action is prescriptive that advocates specific behavior through positive encouragement to do so. When people have contact whatever the occasion and no matter who is involved the actor(s) will have specific focused (focal) behavior either from one or more people. Social norms develop over time because of a long-standing custom as prescriptive norms. Proscriptive on the other hand is specifically about restrictions applied to something. Both these concepts are rarely discussed outright. They instead exist as established guides about the general behavior of the way people act in context to a social situation. Gender norms are socially accepted behavior that are distinct to men and women. On the negative men may benefit from gender norms when society accepts their superiority over females that promotes higher pay, better jobs, first to be hired in comparison to women. Whites may have superiority for educational, employment, and housing over people of color when they exist in such a society accepting such norms. These types of norms may exist as institutionalized sexism and racism in a society that has laws that forbid such actions but they continue anyway. This is the danger of such norms (Coleman 1990).

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  • Coleman, James S. 10- The Demand for Effective Norms. Foundations of Social Theory. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (1990). PDF.