Social Norms and Human Cooperation

Trends Cogn Sci. 2004 Apr;8(4):185-90. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2004.02.007.

Abstract

The existence of social norms is one of the big unsolved problems in social cognitive science. Although no other concept is invoked more frequently in the social sciences, we still know little about how social norms are formed, the forces determining their content, and the cognitive and emotional requirements that enable a species to establish and enforce social norms. In recent years, there has been substantial progress, however, on how cooperation norms are enforced. Here we review evidence showing that sanctions are decisive for norm enforcement, and that they are largely driven by non-selfish motives. Moreover, the explicit study of sanctioning behavior provides instruments for measuring social norms and has also led to deeper insights into the proximate and ultimate forces behind human cooperation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Games, Experimental*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*