The 5 Most Important Differences Between Norm And Rule

One of the most important differences between norm and rule is that norms are derived from general social consensuses that seek to regulate the behavior of members of a cultural group, while rules deal with more specific issues related to said behavior within a context particular.

On the other hand, non-compliance with the rules does not carry legal consequences, while the breaking of a rule may imply some type of sanction within the group where its application is valid, such as in an office, a school or a sports club.

differences between rules and norms

In this way, it can be understood that a rule is born from a norm, and deals with a specific behavior. On the contrary, a norm cannot start from a rule, given its more general nature that seeks to regulate appropriate behavior within society.

Another significant difference is that, being general and widely used, the rules can become laws over time.

The rules are more specific, therefore, they deal with matters within small organizations that will hardly be able to become laws or be formally consigned within the constitution of a country.

Main differences between norms and rules

Rules Rules
They are social consensuses not agreed They are agreed between people
Are not written Are they written or are agreed
They are cultural They are from small groups, institutions,
organizations or microcultural
It is difficult to modify them It is easier to modify them
They are fulfilled by all members
of a society
Fulfilled by specific groups

1- The norms are social consensuses and the rules are agreed between people

The norm is derived from a social consensus that seeks to regulate people’s behavior. It is not recorded in writing in any document and its execution is taken for granted, since most people in the world are governed by daily rules, in order to ensure that their behavior is optimal within society.

An example of a socially consensual norm is to thank when receiving a favor; However, it has not been agreed between people that it is necessary to act like this.

The rules are derived from the norms, but they deal with specific behaviors. The rules are codes established within an organization and their non-compliance can lead to sanctions, as long as the local law allows it.

The important thing here is that the rules are agreed between people; they are explicit. For example, a parent might make it a rule for their child to “not play video games before 7pm.” In this case there is an established agreement.

An example of this is punctuality. Social norms of behavior indicate that it is not correct to be late, however, being late for an event or date with friends does not have any consequences.

On the other hand, within a company, lateness may be sanctioned according to what is stipulated and accepted by the employee in the company’s regulations.

2- The rules are not written; the rules yes or they are agreed

The rules are not consigned in a public document. These have been incorporated by people in the course of their daily life as part of the culture.

The rules, on the other hand, are consigned in a formal document that can be reviewed by all individuals who have a duty to comply with them. They can also be agreed informally, with a verbal agreement.

This is possible thanks to the fact that the rules are made up of smaller units that seek to regulate behavior in a timely manner.

While, norms can encompass multiple behaviors applicable in different contexts, in this way, there are moral, religious, social, conventional norms, among others.

3- Norms are cultural and microcultural or small group rules

Norms are accepted within a broader cultural context and are built according to the notion of “should be” within that context. For example, the social norm of not burping at a business meal is accepted throughout Western culture.

For their part, the rules are intended to regulate behavior within a specific nucleus or context. For example, a family may establish a rule of not eating meat for dinner.

4- The rules are difficult to modify; the rules is simpler

The process of modifying a rule is simpler than that of a rule. This is because a rule is created and regulated by an institution or small group, while norms are social agreements that speak of the “should be” of individuals within a group.

Therefore, to be modified it would require the social codes to change, and this process is considerably slower.

For example, it would be complex to change the norm to seat the elderly in public transport; many people would continue to do so. However, it would be easier for a parent to make the rule that their parents cannot smoke at home.

5- The rules are usually followed by everyone; rules are intended for specific groups

By covering a broader social spectrum, norms are rules of behavior that all members of a society or culture must comply with.

On the other hand, the rules must be complied solely and exclusively by the members of an organization, be it a company, a school or any type of institution or small group.


  1. Learn, EY (December 23, 2012). Study and learn. Obtained from Rules and norms in everyday life:
  2. Examples, E. d. (2017). Encyclopedia of Examples. Obtained from Difference between Norm and Law:
  3. (June 24, 2009). Obtained from Difference between norm and law:
  4. López, C. (2017). Scribd Inc. Retrieved from What are the Rules and Regulations:
  5. (December 14, 2012). UNED Open Courses. Obtained from UNIT 9.- RULES OR NORMS, LAWS AND PRINCIPLES:

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *