From Antiquity to the New Common Era
- New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Chapter 5: The role of language in defining normal behaviour
Language powerfully conditions all our thinking about social problems and processes … No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same worlds with different labels attached. Edward Sapir It was argued that psychiatric traits fall on a continuum with normal or non-psychiatric ones, being perhaps an extreme expression of human behaviour. Using such concepts as those of statistical rarity and norm violation, we will consider a set of behaviours as abnormal when they fall outside defined limits such as two standard deviations from the average (in either direction), or if, for example, they clearly break a given group’s rules. We must, however, define what is normal in order to be able to differentiate it from that we consider abnormal. Each society agrees upon a set of behaviours (norms), that it considers acceptable, expected, and appropriate on the part of its members. History, the environment, and the group's specific needs and vicissitudes dictate how its norms evolve through time. Humans are basically conservative at heart; centuries may come to pass without obliterating such norms. These are handed down to posterity from one generation to the next strengthening their hold on those who uphold them dearly. Religious ritual probably falls in this category as well. At times people defend these norms by going to holy war.
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