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Yet even if a norm may fulfill important social functions such as welfare maximization or the elimination of externalities, it cannot be explained solely or mainly on the basis of the functions it performs.
Much attention instead has been paid to the conditions under which norms will be obeyed.
One hypothesis is that they emerge in small, close-knit groups in which people have ongoing interactions with each other (Hardin 1982, Bicchieri 1993).
Evolutionary game theory makes possible a more rigorous statement of this hypothesis, since repeated games are a useful if simplistic approximation of life in a close-knit group (Axelrod 1984, 1986; Skyrms 1996; Gintis 2000).
Because of that, the issue of has been paramount in the social science literature.
Moreover, since social norms are seen as central to the production of social order or social coordination, research on norms has been focused on the they perform, and whether they do so efficiently.
Like a grammar, a system of norms specifies what is acceptable and what is not in a society or group.
And analogously to a grammar, it is not the product of human design and planning.Social norms, the customary rules that govern behavior in groups and societies, have been extensively studied in the social sciences.Anthropologists have described how social norms function in different cultures (Geertz 1973), sociologists have focused on their social functions and how they motivate people to act (Durkheim 1950; Parsons 1937, Parsons and Shils 1951; Coleman 1990; Hechter and Opp 2001), and economists have explored how adherence to norms influences market behavior (Akerlof 1976; Young 1998).There are three main canonical theories of conformity: socialization, social identity and rational choice.Since all these theories make testable statements about conforming behavior, they should be evaluated in light of a large body of experimental evidence on whether and how normative beliefs affect behavior.All find it difficult to explain the observed variance in norm-induced behavior, and each offers an explanation of conformity that is at best partial.