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Kristin Andrews (York University, Toronto): “A new framework for the psychology of social norms”

7 December 2021, 2:00 pm3:30 pm

This event will take place online via Zoom. 

Everyone is welcome to join using a computer with access to the internet and Zoom. To take part just follow these instructions:

Please note that these events are routinely recorded, with the edited footage being made publicly available on our website and YouTube channel. We will only record the audio, the slides and the speaker and will not include the Q&A section. However, any question asked during the talk itself will feature in the final edit.

Abstract: Social norms are commonly understood as rules that dictate which behaviors are appropriate, permissible, or obligatory in different situations for members of a given community. Many researchers have sought to explain the ubiquity of social norms in human life in terms of the psychological mechanisms underlying their acquisition, conformity, and enforcement. Existing theories of the psychology of social norms appeal to a variety of constructs, from prediction-error minimization, to reinforcement learning, to shared intentionality, to evolved psychological adaptations. In this paper, we propose a novel methodological and conceptual framework for the cognitive science of social norms that we call normative pluralism. We begin with an analysis of the (sometimes mixed) explanatory aims of the cognitive science of social norms. From this analysis, we derive a recommendation for a reformed conception of its explanandum: a community level behavioral construct that we call “normative regularities”. Our central empirical proposal is that the psychological underpinnings of social norms are most likely realized by a heterogeneous set of cognitive, motivational, and ecological mechanisms that vary between norms and between individuals, rather than by a single type of process or distinctive norm system. This pluralistic approach, we suggest, offers a methodologically sound point of departure for a fruitful and rigorous science of social norms.


Kristin Andrews is York Research Chair in Animal Minds and Professor of Philosophy at York University (Toronto), where she also helps coordinate the Cognitive Science program and the Greater Toronto Area Animal Cognition Discussion Group.


7 December 2021
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Event Category:


Department of Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method


Online via Zoom