Social behavior is a term used to describe the general conduct exhibited by individuals within a society. It is essentially in response to what is deemed acceptable by a person’s peer group or involves avoiding behavior that is characterized as unacceptable. This type of human behavior primarily determines how individuals interact with one another within a group or society. While social conduct is often modeled to create a comfortable social environment, anti-social behavior, such as aggression, scapegoating and group bullying, may also be defined as negative social behavior, particularly in instances where other individuals within a peer group all behave accordingly.
Just as positive interactions among individuals in a society help create a pleasant environment for citizens, activities defined by peer groups to be acceptable, even if harmful to select individuals or subgroups within a society, are also part of social behavior. Studies of massive human rights violations have helped illustrate the extent by which harmful, but socially acceptable, behaviors have persisted in some societies. Examples of widespread acceptance of negative behavior within a peer group include historical incidents of mass genocide and human enslavement.
With the use of specially designed behavior therapies and programs, doctors, educators and others can help individuals who are suffering from social disorders, such as shyness or unrestrained anger, learn how to overcome these issues to become more productive members of society. Not only is the study of how social conduct affects members of mainstream society important, but in studying anti-social behavior, in particular, mental health professionals are able to help people isolated from society become rehabilitated and engage in positive interactions with others. Even when considering the prevalence of the dual inheritance theory, which attributes human behavior to a combination of genetic selection and cultural influence, social conduct programs may have a positive impact in correcting socially maladaptive behaviors in individual patients. Research within sociology and psychology have questioned whether traits, such as altruism, may be genetically influenced while, at the same time, be rooted in social psychology.
Through the study of social psychology, it is known that humans are not the only beings influenced by social groups. Researchers studying animals and insects have found that social behavior governs the activities of these groups, as well. This is particularly evident in animals and insects that live their entire lives within a group of the same species and where each member has a role to play in that group’s survival.