Monday, January 3, 2011

Social Norms

In the animal kingdom especially in the higher life forms such as reptiles, fishes, birds and mammals whenever individual members of the same species live within the same territory or have territorial overlaps the prevailing order is most often that of dominance. The larger, stronger and better equipment individual is usually able to secure a territorial range for its subsistence and propagation. This is true both for solitary species as well as those that live in some sort of community or social group. This is a prevailing order where dominance rules but not a permanent status quo for the individual dominant animal that is exercising dominance. Their status of being the dominant or the alpha animals are usually temporary until they are replaced by new maturing animals that are stronger and more powerful most often by virtual of being at their prime and younger than those they replaced.

Even among these dominant animals that hold territory there in adjacently held territories are fairly equally match dominant animals and in cases where the density of such species is high the territorial overlap usually triggers attrition conflicts among such animals on the fringes of the territorial overlap.

Nature through genetic inherency and evolutionary forces provided for some measure of conflict avoidance as conflict are usually costly for those individuals participating in such conflict which often results in severe injuries or death for one or both participants when such conflicts are not mitigated. This is especially true where the conflicting parties are fairly evenly matched. To this end most animals which holds territory whether fluidal as in migrating herds such as elephants, zebras, etc or static such as with lions, tigers, wolves, etc make use of territory markers using scent, sound, posturing and physical signs to avoid such conflicts. This is not to say that fatal conflicts are not a natural schematics of such strivings for territory and dominance but that their occurances are reduced or lessened.

But when animals live in closed knit social groups or communities the conflict avoidance schematics are vastly enhanced to allow for the continuance of such social groups or communities. For any group of free willed independent minded individuals to coexist relatively peacefully in a community, social group or in close proximity (from the group's internal perspective to mitigate exacerbating conflict due to their extreme proximities to each other), there need to be some sort of regulatory oversight that mitigate the conflicts among the individual in the group's membership.

In the kingdom of non-intelligence social organism there is the primal instinct or the natural behavioral controls inherent in the genetic makeup of each individual member of the species that conforms it to the behavior that advances the continued survival of the communal unit and the species’ propagation. Any deviation from this will tend to cause disorder within these communal groups which either result in a new communal order or the destruction of the disrupting individual or the breakup of the affected communal group. This does not include 'schooling' or ‘herding’ behavior as individuals in those 'schools' or ‘herds’ are banded together solely for safety in numbers and minimal territorial conflict is present during the 'schooling' or ‘herding’ expression. There are exception to this of course where within a herds there may actually be social group or family unit in a herd migration. Similarly colony nesting such as is common to several bird species and some fish species are not true social communities but safety in numbers just as schooling fishes, birds and animal herds.

What we can note and learn from this very first basis of communal co-existence is that for a community to survive and thrive there has to be some form of order even if these are just very primitive. Further any major disruption to this order will bring about destruction and an end to the community if no new order were to be established.

In sub-intelligent species (excluding super organism) where groups of individual co-exist within close proximity or even in close-knit colonies or communities, the genetic regulatory oversight is most often determined by a dominant animal. In some such communal groups the individual co-exist relatively peacefully while in others there is a constant attrition among the more dominant animals.

Where the social or communal groups are large there may be more than one single dominant animal each having dominance in a sub sphere of the large group. In some cases there would be a dominant group of animals sort of like a social group within a social group exercising some sort of regulatory control over the entire social unit. The alpha member or members will continue to exercise dominance until it or they are replaced. In such situations there are continual 'minimum' conflicts within the communal order. In primitive communal structure this is the direct pecking orders.

In sub intelligence animal this pecking order may be simple and straight forward based on the individual’s size, strength and aggressiveness or it can be very complicated and bear some similitude to the social political structures in human societies.

As we move up the ladder of the species’ 'intelligence' or towards a more ‘developed’ nature of the community where the individual's control over its behavior are increasingly ‘self decision’ driven as opposed to genetic predisposition, the role of the instinctive or genetic in behavior regulatory decreases. In many such cases especially in large communal group the regulatory exercised by alpha individual or groups over the other members may be considerably lessened and increasingly a communal regulatory oversight may prevail. This may be completely exercised by the whole of the communal group or in tandem with that of a dominant individual or group.

That is what is called the communal norm. The complexity of this communal norm increases directly with the level of intelligence of the species. And this is true too to a certain extend in human ‘species’ where tribal norms rule the ‘primitive’ tribes and social norm forms the accepted behavior in social groups and human societies. Numerous studies conducted on animals living in communities have noted some parallel between these communities of animals living in social groups and human tribal societies.



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1.Words in italic reference titles or proper names where this applies, otherwise these are personal notes to select people who are familiar with them.
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