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Social Sanction

Social Sanctions play an integral role in maintaining societal norms and values by influencing individual behavior. They can be classified into positive and negative sanctions, each of which has formal and informal variations [1].

Positive and Negative Sanctions

Positive Sanctions

Positive sanctions are rewards given to individuals who conform to societal norms. They act as a reinforcement for desired behavior, encouraging adherence to established social rules [2].

Examples include praise, promotions, honors, and other forms of social recognition.

Negative Sanctions

Conversely, negative sanctions serve as punishments for those who deviate from societal norms. These sanctions aim to discourage undesirable behavior and foster societal cohesion [2].

Examples include fines, imprisonment, social ostracization, and criticism.

Formal and Informal Sanctions

Formal Sanctions

Formal sanctions are enforced by official institutions like government, schools, or workplaces. They are typically well-documented and transparent, with clear guidelines for when and how they are applied [3].

Examples include legal penalties, expulsion from school, or termination from employment.

FormalPromotion at workplaceImprisonment for crime

Informal Sanctions

Informal sanctions, on the other hand, are enforced by individuals or groups within a society. They are often spontaneous and lack the formalized procedures associated with official sanctions [3].

Examples include social acceptance or ostracism, personal compliments or insults.

InformalSocial acceptanceSocial ostracism

The Importance of Social Sanctions

Social sanctions play a critical role in society. They encourage individuals to abide by societal norms and deter those who might otherwise deviate [4].

Upholding Social Order

Sanctions help maintain social order by setting standards for acceptable behavior. Individuals are deterred from breaking these norms due to fear of negative sanctions, while positive sanctions incentivize compliance.

Facilitating Social Control

Sanctions enable social control by giving societal institutions the authority to reward or punish behavior. This helps to regulate individual actions and maintain societal equilibrium.


In essence, social sanctions are the society’s mechanisms to control and regulate behaviors that may affect the harmony and function of the community. As societal norms and values evolve, so too do the types of sanctions applied. Understanding this complex interplay is fundamental to the study of social structures and human behavior.


[1] Hechter, M., & Opp, K. D. (2001). Social norms. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

[2] Giddens, A., & Sutton, P. W. (2017). Essential concepts in sociology. Polity.

[3] Thibaut, J., & Walker, L. (1975). Procedural justice: A psychological analysis. L. Erlbaum Associates.

[4] Durkheim, E. (1982). The rules of the sociological method. Free Press.

Anthropologist Vasundhra - Author and Anthroholic

Vasundhra, an anthropologist, embarks on a captivating journey to decode the enigmatic tapestry of human society. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity, she unravels the intricacies of social phenomena, immersing herself in the lived experiences of diverse cultures. Armed with an unwavering passion for understanding the very essence of our existence, Vasundhra fearlessly navigates the labyrinth of genetic and social complexities that shape our collective identity. Her recent publication unveils the story of the Ancient DNA field, illuminating the pervasive global North-South divide. With an irresistible blend of eloquence and scientific rigor, Vasundhra effortlessly captivates audiences, transporting them to the frontiers of anthropological exploration.

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