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MCAT Psychology Question — Societal Norms

A hedonic teenager of wayward morals, in one night, sequentially i) has consensual sexual intercourse with his sister, ii) leaves no tip at the bar, iii) has non-censual sexual relations with an unknown woman, and iv) vomits on the steps to the door of a local church. The teenager has violated society’s norms sequentially (to the greatest degree) on the order of:

a) mores, mores, the law, mores

b) taboo, folkways, the law, and taboo

c) the law, folkways, folkways, and folkways

d) taboo, folkways, the law, and mores



A society’s norms are group held beliefs of how an individual should behave in context. To a rough approximation: folkways distinguish between “right and rude,” mores distinguish between “right and wrong,” taboos define behaviors too accursed for an ordinary individual to undertake, and laws are systems of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior.

In the west, two common taboos are incest, sexual intercourse between close relatives, and pederasty, a homosexual relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or adolescent male. Laws regarding incest vary widely between jurisdictions. Pederasty violates the law if the younger male is not of the age of consent.

In the west, non-consensual sex, murder, and theft are common violations of the law.

a) mores, mores, the law, mores, incorrect, Intercourse with a sibling violates a taboo, failing to tip violates a folkway, non-consensual sex violates the law, and vomiting on a religious building violates a more (probably slightly more extreme than a violation of a folkway).

b) taboo, folkways, the law, and taboo, incorrect, Although quite distasteful, vomiting on a religious building does not violate a cultural taboo.

c) the law, folkways, folkways, and folkways, incorrect, Consensual sex with a sibling does not violate the law in all jurisdictions and is an example of violating a cultural taboo. Non-consensual sex is a violation of the law. Vomiting on a religious building is slightly more than rude, and would most likely be considered a violation of mores rather than folkways.

d) taboo, folkways, the law, and mores, correct.


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