The 9 Most Important Types Of Standards

Types of standards

Norms exist in all societies and cultures. These are behavioral patterns that guide our behavior, a type of explicit or implicit rules that help us understand how to act in different situations.

But there are many ways in which norms are expressed. In this article We will know 9 types of standards according to three classification parameters: its type of indication, its degree of formality and its scope of application. We will know the characteristics of each type and what penalties entails non-compliance.

What are the rules?

The rules are guidelines or rules of behavior, which tell us how we should act and how not to act, depending on what areas That is, in a certain way they regulate what is legal and what is not, “what can be done and what cannot.” That is why they have an implicit ethical component.

They are a type of agreements that we accept when we enter a specific area (for example in a school, in a church, in a club…). There are different types of standards depending on the criteria or parameter that we use to classify them.

Furthermore, the rules evolve over time, they change; In different cultures, there are also different types of norms (more flexible, more rigid, more restricted…). That is to say, culture, sometimes, and in depending on what areas, has an important weight in the elaboration of different types of norms.


The most notable functions of the different types of norms are: on the one hand, they serve to ensure that there is a certain control in society; besides, They regulate behavior and tell us how to behave in certain contexts when we do not know very well how to act.

On the other hand, they allow us to establish a “unit of measurement” to assess and evaluate people’s behavior. Furthermore, another of its functions is that They help satisfy the needs we have within society and can avoid important social conflicts.

Main types of standards

We can classify the different types of standards according to three different parameters that we will see.

1. According to its degree of formality

In this sense, the rules can be formal or informal:

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1.1. Formal rules

Formal rules are usually presented in writing (or through a symbol, depending on what contexts). For example, a formal rule would be “eating on the bus is prohibited,” or “the employee must give notice that he is leaving work with a minimum of 15 days’ notice.”

They are norms that are agreed and formally communicated (with more or less formality). Furthermore, this type of rules usually contemplate the negative consequence of not complying with said rule.

1. 2. Informal norms

In contrast, informal norms They are unspoken rules ; That is to say, it is not necessary for them to be expressed or said explicitly, since they are rules that are understood or presupposed by the context. People accept these types of norms implicitly.

For example, informal rules would be: “do not shout in a church”, “do not go naked in the street”, or “do not hit at school”.

2. According to your type of indication

Depending on the type of indication or behavior to follow (or not follow) established by the rule, we find two types of rules, which we will see below. That is to say, Does the rule prohibit a behavior or does it indicate a behavior to follow? Let’s see the difference.

2.1. Prescriptive standards

Prescriptive norms indicate behaviors that must be followed. That is, they establish guidelines for appropriate or appropriate behavior For example: “shower before entering the pool”, “maintain silence inside the library” or “close the door after leaving”.

2.2. Proscriptive norms

On the other hand, proscriptive norms indicate behaviors to avoid, behaviors that cannot be done; that is to say, it’s more about prohibitions This is why they are generally less flexible.

For example, proscriptive rules could be: “do not step on the grass”, “smoking is prohibited” or “no bathing on the beach with a red flag”.

3. According to its scope of application

According to the third classification parameter, its scope of application, we can find 5 types of standards:

3.1. Social norms

Social norms They are obligatory “pacts” that we must follow when we are in society (on the street, in public places…), and that they remembered at the time rather spontaneously. That is, they are norms that initially emerged like this, thinking about respect between people.

Its function is to ensure good coexistence between citizens Failure to comply with any of them generally implies a sanction for the citizen, but this sanction is social, not legal (for example, social exclusion). An example would be not stepping on the grass in parks, or not dirtying public spaces; Failure to comply is very likely to generate rejection by citizens.

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Some social norms have served as the basis for developing legal norms by the State. That is, they have derived from social norms. These types of norms are different in each culture.

3.2. religious norms

These types of norms have to do, as their name indicates, with a specific religious current or philosophy. That is, each religion establishes its norms, and they refer to what a believer of that religion is expected to do or not do. They are closely related to morality and ethics since they often refer to “good and evil.”

In the Christian religion, for example, breaking certain religious norms is a sin. On the other hand, failure to comply is related to a more spiritual sanction (for example: praying “X” number of prayers of the Lord’s Prayer, or praying the Virgin Mary).

These sanctions will obviously vary from one religion to another, and from one culture to another. In addition, the severity of the sin will also influence, there is even talk of “going to hell” in case of violating more serious religious norms. We can find religious norms written in the Bible (in the case of the Christian tradition), in sacred texts or documents, etc.

3.3. Legal or legal norms

Continuing with the types of norms according to their scope of application, we find legal or legal norms. These are the “official” rules in each city or country ; Its compliance is mandatory for everyone. They guide and govern how citizens should behave (civil behavior). They are rules that must be written and reflected in some legal document.

These rules They are established by legal and judicial institutions that regulate society. Failure to comply with them carries certain types of sanctions. These sanctions can be administrative (fines) or criminal (jail, criminal record…). They are a type of rules that prevent major misfortunes from happening within society (for example, serious imprudence, murders…).

They have a lot to do with social norms, and what is “right” and what is “wrong” within a society. That is why they tell us and define how to act and how not to act, and allow us to “control” the well-being and tranquility of citizens, businesses, companies, etc.

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3.4. Moral standards

The moral refers to human behavior that is “right” and that is “wrong.” In a certain way, morality allows us to judge the behavior of people in society. That is why moral norms have a lot to do with ethics, a more global discipline than morality, which values ​​human behavior in society.

Ethics also tries to understand and study the relationships between good and evil, human behavior and morality. Thus, moral norms are related to social pacts or conventions about what is ethical (correct) and what is not. These are types of norms that have (or should have) special consideration for human rights respect and dignity of people.

Moral norms are often implicit norms, of tacit agreement and compliance, that are not written anywhere. They have to do above all with relationships with others, and sometimes they are somewhat subjective (for example, moral norms could be: “not to date my sister’s ex-partner”, or “not to tell lies to the people I love” ).

Failure to comply is related to a more spiritual or conscientious sanction, such as guilt or remorse. That is, the sanction has more to do with oneself. Sometimes moral norms are related to religious norms, as we have already seen, since both share aspects of personal conscience and remorse.

3.5. Protocol rules

Also called “etiquette rules”, these types of norms indicate how we should dress at a party, how we should behave and eat in a luxury restaurant, etc. That is, they have more to do with elegance and good behavior in contexts with a high economic level, high demands or where it is important to maintain a good reputation.

Thus, they are norms that are applied in certain social contexts (dinners, parties, weddings…), especially in settings with a lot of “cache” or with people in high positions and responsibilities (for example royalty, politicians…).

They include, as we mentioned: the way of dressing, the way of eating (the cutlery to use with each dish, for example), even the way of entering and greeting, etc.