Understanding social norms and constitutive rules: Perspectives from developmental psychology and philosophy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A recent experimental paradigm that tests young children’s understanding of social norms by modelling norms on Searle’s notion of constitutive rule is examined. The experiments and the reasons provided for their design are discussed in detail. The concepts of a social norm and of a constitutive rule are compared, and it is shown that they are distinct. It is argued that the experiments do not provide direct evidence for the development of social norms. The experimental data are re-interpreted, and suggestions for how to deal with the present criticism are presented. It is suggested that normativity emerges from interaction, and that learning to comply with social norms involves an understanding of the distinctions among their content, enforcement, and acceptance.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
  • Philosophy


  • compliance, constitutive rule, game, rule following, play, social norm
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-718
JournalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

Related projects

Ingar Brinck & Patrizio Lo Presti

Swedish Research Council


Project: ResearchInternational collaboration, Interdisciplinary research, Individual research project

View all (1)