Are you able to talk back to your grandpa?
Is your culture gay-friendly?
What is your society’s stance on pre-marital cohabitation?
Can women in your culture go topless at the beach?
The answers to these questions relate to your cultural mores. Mores are the strongest social norms, because they’re based on the moral judgments of the society in which you live.
Mores inform society how to behave, and this is all based in the moral values of the culture. Do not kill, do not commit adultery, respect your elders. In many cultures, mores are tied closely with values, just like folkways…but they are different than folkways.
Mores vs. Folkways
How do mores differ?
As shared by Puja Mondal in yourarticlelibrary, according to Giddings and Halt (1906), “a practical distinction between folkways and mores is that violation of a folkway is generally met with laughter.”
However, the social ostracism that someone who crosses a mos (mores, singular) might meet can be much more severe.
For instance, whereas someone who always cuts the queue in the UK would simply be an irritation to those around him, someone who goes nude at a non-nudey beach in the UK would be violating a mos.
Depending on your culture’s dominant religions – and the degree to which these religions dictate societal norms, values, and behaviors – some mores may be determined by religious doctrine.
One example is cohabitation. A number of religions prohibit moving in with a partner before marriage. If you come from a culture with strict mores on the subject, others may look badly on you, tell you off, or even ostracize you for moving in with your partner.
The behavior is considered immoral and, therefore, a stain on the soul, and the reactions by the transgressor’s friends and family are meant to shame the behavior and make the individual alter it accordingly.
In a number of Western cultures, it is, for the most part, acceptable to cohabitate with a partner before marriage, unless one is brought in a strict religious family. In many Arab nations, it’s unacceptable and, therefore, uncommon.
This is what decides a culture’s mores.
Another example is public nudity. American culture finds public nudity sexually-provocative and offensive, so most would be shocked if someone showed up at a beach in his birthday suit.
In a number of European countries, however, public nudity is much more lenient. Men might swim in the nude, women might go topless. And in Asia, women and men are often publically nude at their separate spas or saunas.
Even in traditional Africa, where sexual mores are strict, a woman might go topless. This is because breasts are not considered sexual or indecent. Their primary use is functional – for feeding babies – and so is looked at as such.
Right vs. Wrong
Unlike folkways, which distinguish between what is “right” and what is “rude,” mores distinguish between what is “right” and what is “wrong.”
And mores impact our society to a much higher degree than do folkways. As thoughtco puts it: “Mores exact a greater coercive force in shaping our values, beliefs, behavior, and interactions.”
Think about your own cultural mores and how they shape your behaviors.