I propose that norms regulate behaviors that negatively impact an individual's survival and reproduction. But because monitoring and enforcing of norms can be costly, individuals should be selective about which norms they police and under what circumstances they should do so. Two studies tested this idea by experimentally activating fitness-relevant motives and having participants answer questions about the policing of norms. The first study examined a norm prescribing respect for status and another proscribing sexual coercion. Results from Study 1 failed to support the hypotheses; activating a status-seeking motive did not have the predicted effects on policing of the respect-status norm nor did activating a mating motive have the predicted effects on policing of the respect-status norm or anti-coercion norm. Study 2 examined two new norms, one prescribing that people stay home when sick and the other proscribing people from having sex with another person's partners. Study 2 also manipulated whether self or others were the target of the policing. Study 2 failed to provide support; a disease avoidance motive failed to have effects on policing of the stay home when sick norm. Individuals in a relationship under a mating motive wanted less policing of others for violation of the mate poaching norm than those in a baseline condition, opposite of the predicted effects.
- Social Norms as Social Controls: Effects of Fundamental Motives on Policing of Norms
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