Monday, November 9, 2009

Social Norm Violation as a cause of war.

It is odd how easy people fall into habits. What is deemed usual and accepted is known to psychologists as social norms. People fall into the habit of accepting certain things as how they “should be”. When something that “should be” is changed, that is, when a social norm is violated people react negatively. As seen in multiple lab experiments <(Schreiber, Darren 2009), (Mary B. McPherson a; Patricia Kearney a; Timothy G. Plax a )> People tend to anger when a social norm violation occurs. This anger can be seen in both individuals and groups and can be on grounds as broad as religion or as simplistic as clothing color.

By looking back at such conflicts as the cold war and the Second World War, it is possible to see how the violation of social norms may cause escalation and increased tension in a war. The fight against the Japanese and the Germans during the Second World War was, according to much propaganda (, a fight against communism. According to anti-communist campaign writers and artists, communism was the main threat to the U.S.A.’s democratic way of life, the main threat to the norm. As in the lab experiments, people gained a purely negative attitude to the people who broke the democratic norm of the time. This tension even went so far as to put Japanese Americans in camps so as to keep the norm safe. Communism was different, thus it was the enemy.

Social norm violation can also be attributed to the start of America’s involvement World War II. Because the Japanese saw America as different, and thus a threat, they made a preemptive strike at Pearl Harbor. America was in violation of the Japanese social norm, thus anger in Japan built against America. This anger inevitable caused the Japanese to violate a social norm of America, life, thus America fought back. Although a system where all countries have the same social norm is not possible, it is possible to look objectively at the differences between countries or groups of people to see where tension lies and how to properly deal with any aggression that may occur. By studying what makes social groups different and how they interact with other groups, it is possible to stall or even prevent another conflict from happening.

- Schreiber, Darren. "Race and Norm Violation: A Functional Brain Imaging Study" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Classical Chinese Garden, Portland, Oregon USA, . 2009-05-24
- a Mary B. McPherson is an Assistant Professor, and Patricia Kearney and Timothy G. Plax are Professors of Communication Studies at California State University, Long Beach.

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