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How do unwritten rules and sanctions contribute to social control?


Crime and Deviance

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Free Essay Outline

Outline: Unwritten Rules and Sanctions in Social Control

This essay will explore how unwritten rules (norms) and informal sanctions contribute to social control.


Define social control, norms (formal and informal), and sanctions.

Briefly explain how social control is essential for a functioning society.

Introduce the argument that unwritten rules and informal sanctions play a significant role in shaping behaviour and maintaining order.

Body Paragraph 1: The Role of Norms

Explain the concept of norms and their different types (folkways, mores, taboos).

Provide examples of unwritten rules in everyday life (e.g., queuing, personal space, etiquette).

Discuss how norms can vary across cultures and subcultures.

Body Paragraph 2: Informal Sanctions

Define informal sanctions and their various forms (e.g., gossip, ostracism, ridicule).

Explain how informal sanctions can be effective in enforcing norms.

Provide examples of informal sanctions in action.

Body Paragraph 3: The Effectiveness of Unwritten Rules and Sanctions

Discuss the strengths of informal social control (e.g., widespread, flexible, adaptable).

Acknowledge potential limitations (e.g., uneven application, potential for abuse, limited power in certain situations).


Reiterate the importance of unwritten rules and informal sanctions in maintaining social order.

Briefly discuss the relationship between formal and informal social control.

Conclude by highlighting the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of norms and sanctions in society.

Free Essay 

The Silent Hand: How Unwritten Rules and Sanctions Shape Our Behavior

We often think of social control as something imposed upon us – laws, police, punishments. But a significant part of social control operates beneath the surface, woven into the fabric of our daily interactions. This is the realm of unwritten rules and informal sanctions, shaping our behavior in subtle but powerful ways.

⭐⭐Unwritten Rules: The Fabric of Social Order⭐⭐

Unwritten rules, or social norms, are the unspoken expectations and guidelines that govern our behavior in different social settings. They are the "rules of the game" that dictate how we interact with others, dress appropriately, behave in public spaces, and even express our emotions. Imagine a crowded elevator: we instinctively avoid eye contact, maintain a certain distance, and refrain from loud conversations. These behaviors aren't explicitly stated, yet they are universally understood and adhered to.

These unwritten rules stem from shared values, beliefs, and cultural experiences. They can vary significantly across cultures and subcultures, highlighting the diversity of human social organization. In some cultures, direct confrontation may be taboo, while in others, it might be encouraged. Similarly, the acceptable level of personal space varies widely based on cultural norms.

⭐⭐Informal Sanctions: Enforcing the Rules⭐⭐

Informal sanctions are the reactions, both positive and negative, that we receive from others for complying with or violating unwritten rules. These sanctions are not official punishments like fines or jail time, but rather social feedback mechanisms that reinforce conformity.

⭐⭐Positive Informal Sanctions:⭐⭐ These are rewards for following unwritten rules. They can range from simple smiles and compliments to gestures of gratitude or expressions of approval. These positive sanctions build social capital, strengthen bonds, and encourage continued adherence to norms. Think of the warm feeling of belonging when you contribute to a group project or the satisfaction of receiving a sincere compliment.

⭐⭐Negative Informal Sanctions:⭐⭐ These are punishments for violating unwritten rules. Examples include disapproving looks, gossip, social ostracism, or even physical gestures like a disapproving shake of the head. These sanctions are meant to deter individuals from engaging in behaviors deemed unacceptable by the group. Imagine the discomfort of being excluded from a conversation or the social stigma associated with public displays of anger.

⭐⭐The Power of the Unwritten:⭐⭐

The effectiveness of unwritten rules and informal sanctions lies in their pervasiveness and their ability to influence behavior without the need for explicit enforcement. They operate through a constant feedback loop, subtly shaping our actions and reinforcing social norms.


⭐Dress codes:⭐⭐ While schools and workplaces might have written dress codes, the specific interpretations and nuances often rely on unwritten rules.
⭐Conversation etiquette:⭐⭐ The "rules" of conversation, like taking turns speaking and maintaining eye contact, are rarely spoken, but their violation can lead to social awkwardness.
⭐Online behavior:⭐⭐ Even in the digital world, unwritten rules about online etiquette, trolling, and appropriate content exist, shaping how we interact.


Unwritten rules and informal sanctions are the invisible forces that contribute to social order and stability. They create a sense of shared understanding, guide our actions, and shape the very fabric of our social interactions. By understanding their power and influence, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the complexity of social control and the subtle ways in which we navigate the world around us.

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