What is Social Behavior?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 May 2019
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Social behavior is a term used to describe the general conduct exhibited by individuals within a society. It is essentially in response to what is deemed acceptable by a person’s peer group or involves avoiding behavior that is characterized as unacceptable. This type of human behavior primarily determines how individuals interact with one another within a group or society. While social conduct is often modeled to create a comfortable social environment, anti-social behavior, such as aggression, scapegoating and group bullying, may also be defined as negative social behavior, particularly in instances where other individuals within a peer group all behave accordingly.

Just as positive interactions among individuals in a society help create a pleasant environment for citizens, activities defined by peer groups to be acceptable, even if harmful to select individuals or subgroups within a society, are also part of social behavior. Studies of massive human rights violations have helped illustrate the extent by which harmful, but socially acceptable, behaviors have persisted in some societies. Examples of widespread acceptance of negative behavior within a peer group include historical incidents of mass genocide and human enslavement.


With the use of specially designed behavior therapies and programs, doctors, educators and others can help individuals who are suffering from social disorders, such as shyness or unrestrained anger, learn how to overcome these issues to become more productive members of society. Not only is the study of how social conduct affects members of mainstream society important, but in studying anti-social behavior, in particular, mental health professionals are able to help people isolated from society become rehabilitated and engage in positive interactions with others. Even when considering the prevalence of the dual inheritance theory, which attributes human behavior to a combination of genetic selection and cultural influence, social conduct programs may have a positive impact in correcting socially maladaptive behaviors in individual patients. Research within sociology and psychology have questioned whether traits, such as altruism, may be genetically influenced while, at the same time, be rooted in social psychology.

Through the study of social psychology, it is known that humans are not the only beings influenced by social groups. Researchers studying animals and insects have found that social behavior governs the activities of these groups, as well. This is particularly evident in animals and insects that live their entire lives within a group of the same species and where each member has a role to play in that group’s survival.


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Post 7

Is this situation an example of a social behavior in society? Women discussing with their partner, friends and family if they should keep the baby - or have an abortion or adoption.

Post 4

@Sneakers41 - I wonder about the same thing too. For example, what influences a woman to pursue a life as a nun when in the same family you may have another sibling that chooses a more conventional career path?

I also wonder when celebrities give money to charitable causes are they doing so because other celebrities have done so or is it because they really want to help the charity.

It is just like when there is a telethon on television to raise money for a cause. Do you contribute because of the totals that you see on the screen or do you give money because you really believe in the charity.

Sometimes these types of events cause competitive pressure for people to be altruistic but I wonder how many really would have given money to the cause without the telethon.

Post 3

@Bhutan - That is a good idea. I also wonder how some people become altruistic and others don’t. For example, I saw a program the other day in which a group of college graduates decided to do a documentary about the children suffering in Darfur.

It was a graphic account and they travelled all over the country in order to draw attention to the plight of these defenseless children.

It was really amazing and they were able to get a lot of celebrities to support them on this cause. I wonder if this type of behavior is learned though a value system growing up or is it just a result of social influences based on the people that the young men chose to hang around with.

Post 2

@Cafe41 -I agree with what you are saying, but I think if you cement your values early on and the child is used hearing this they will not fall into the trap.

For example, when discussing bullying, I explained to my children that people that bully others are really sort of broken. They are very unhappy people that are trying to get attention.

When my children understand this they know that not only is bullying wrong, but it is not personal.They also know to assert themselves in a polite manner and usually the bullying would go away.

They have never had these problems but when we watch movies in which this takes place, I go over this with them so that they will understand how social influences on behavior occurs.

Post 1

I think that the most delicate time for people to develop their social behavior and personality is in junior high and high school. This is the time when social interaction with those deemed most attractive is at its peak.

This could be dangerous because kids that are guided in this manner often will do whatever they need to in order to belong to the coveted group. This could mean participating in group bullying or drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or having sex.

The social influence is greatest during this time and the parent’s influence seems to decline. This is why it is important to keep an open dialogue with your kids because even though you may think that they don’t hear what you are saying they do.

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