Cognitive Properties of Norm Representations

Bertram F. Malle, Joseph L. Austerweil, Vivienne B. Chi, Yoed N. Kenett, Emorie D. Beck, Stuti Thapa, Mowafak Allaham

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Norms are central to social life. They help people select actions that benefit the community and facilitate behavior prediction and coordination. However, little is known about the cognitive properties of norms. Here we focus on norm activation, context specificity, and how those properties differ for the two major types of norms: prescriptions and prohibitions. In two studies, participants are exposed to a variety of contexts by way of scene images and either (a) freely generate norms that apply to the context or (b) decide whether each of a series of candidate norms applies to a given context. Across both studies, people showed high levels of context specificity and fast norm activation, and these properties were substantially stronger for prescriptions than for prohibitions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event43rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Comparative Cognition: Animal Minds, CogSci 2021 - Virtual, Online, Austria
Duration: 26 Jul 202129 Jul 2021


Conference43rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Comparative Cognition: Animal Minds, CogSci 2021
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cognitive Science Society: Comparative Cognition: Animal Minds, CogSci 2021.All rights reserved.


This project was supported in part by a grant from the Office of Naval Research, No. N00014-14-l-0144 and from and from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), SIMPLEX 14-46-FP-097. The opinions expressed here are our own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ONR or DARPA.

FundersFunder number
Office of Naval ResearchN00014-14-l-0144
Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencySIMPLEX 14-46-FP-097


    • Social norms
    • cognitive structure
    • deontics
    • moral norms
    • negation
    • network


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