Normalization refers to social processes through which ideas and actions come to be seen as 'normal' and become taken-for-granted or 'natural' in everyday life. There are different behavioral attitudes that humans accept as normal, such as grief for a loved one, avoiding danger, and not participating in cannibalism.
The concept of normalization can be found in the work of Michel Foucault, especially Discipline and Punish, in the context of his account of disciplinary power. As Foucault used the term, normalization involved the construction of an idealized norm of conduct – for example, the way a proper soldier ideally should stand, march, present arms, and so on, as defined in minute detail – and then rewarding or punishing individuals for conforming to or deviating from this ideal. In Foucault's account, normalization was one of an ensemble of tactics for exerting the maximum social control with the minimum expenditure of force, which Foucault calls "disciplinary power". Disciplinary power emerged over the course of the 19th century, came to be used extensively in military barracks, hospitals, asylums, schools, factories, offices, and so on, and hence became a crucial aspect of social structure in modern societies.
In Security, Territory, Population, a lecture given at the Collège de France in 1978, Foucault defined normalization thus:
Normalization consists first of all in positing a model, an optimal model that is constructed in terms of a certain result, and the operation of disciplinary normalization consists in trying to get people, movements, and actions to conform to this model, the normal being precisely that which can conform to this norm, and the abnormal that which is incapable of conforming to the norm. In other words, it is not the normal and the abnormal that is fundamental and primary in disciplinary normalization, it is the norm. That is, there is an originally prescriptive character of the norm and the determination and the identification of the normal and the abnormal becomes possible in relation to this posited norm.
Normalization process theory
Normalization process theory is a middle-range theory used mainly in medical sociology and science and technology studies to provide a framework for understanding the social processes by which new ways of thinking, working and organizing become routinely incorporated in everyday work. Normalization process theory has its roots in empirical studies of technological innovation in healthcare, and especially in the evaluation of complex interventions.
Influences of behavior
The world is constantly changing and many things can change the situation an individual is in. Many influences such as past experiences, environment, mental strength, physical strength, people, and the media can affect a person's behavior. A person can decide to let certain things influence them. This will determine if the person is able to make a decision rationally or not. Some people fail to see the effects of their actions after letting influences affect their actions.
Mood and emotions
People can greatly be affected by their mood. One's judgement and emotional well-being is influenced by one's mood. A negative mood can cause someone to be unproductive and it will show in the person's performance. Positive moods can make a person be more active and productive. If the person is well emotion-wise, they are full of energy and are able to stay positive.
Children are known for developing behaviors based on family, friends and media influences. A child may not know what they were doing is right or wrong. They must be able to learn from experiences if their actions are right or wrong. It is the parent's job to teach the child whether it is socially accepted or not. As the child develops from a child to a young adult, most of their influence will come from their friends. It will become harder for parents to tell how the child behaves as the child grows older.
Young adults and teenagers are heavily affected by looking up to role models. Young adults are influenced to act, talk, dress and behave similarly to their role models. This can either be a positive or negative for the individual. Looking up to a role model can have positive effects, as may influence young adults to strive for success and it brings the best out of the person to do well. Positive role models are people able to overcome obstacles, inspire others, and achievements of success. However, negative role models may model bad behaviors like bullying, drug usage, and cheating, which may lead to failure rather than success. Young adults may learn to avoid problems rather than solve them. The problems with blindly copying a role model is that people start to lose a sense of identity.
Examples of normal behavior
Grief is the deep sorrow usually caused by someone's death. It has now become a normal human reaction to a loss of a loved one. It is not uncommon for someone to be in sadness. Many have to deal with coping with grief.
During the 1900s homosexuality was not accepted as a normal behavior and people attracted to the same gender were considered different and were heavily discriminated against. Over the years, it has now been accepted in places such as the United States, Canada and other places around the world.
Laughter signals acceptance and trust in a group. This is often why laughter is contagious, and explains why people are unlikely to laugh alone.
Types of abnormal behavior
- Horwitz, Allan. What's Normal?: Reconciling Biology and Culture. p. 197.
- Foucault, Michel, 1990. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. Robert Hurley, trans. New York: Vintage.
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- Foucault, Michel (2007) . Security, Territory, Population. p. 58.
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