How can social constructionism be used to manipulate people’s perception of different social problems?
The social constructionism approach highlights that norms are also important in creating and shaping what we deem as social problems. Sherrif described norms as ‘jointly negotiated rules for social behavior, the customs, traditions, standards, rules, values, and fashions which are standardized as a consequence of the contact of individuals’. Norms are a useful way to control society and create social cohesion so that most people in the society are operating in the same way. As Cialdini, Reno and Kallgren note “if everyone is doing it, then it must be the sensible thing to do”. This is especially true, in relation to power as norms are usually created by powerful groups such as the government and politicians who want to keep society in order. They have the power to set the public agenda and draw attention to certain problems and away from others. (Heap, 2018). They can do this by manipulating what evidence to highlight, therefore identifying certain groups as problematic. Groups who are constructed as being the source of social problems often are not able to get their view across as they tend to lack power, access to resources and knowledge. Therefore, this aspect of social construction can have an impact on how social problems are constructed. This indicates that social construction is a useful way to understand the construction of social problems and how policies can tackle them. In the U.K as a whole, there are certain unofficial values and morals that are seen as the “norm” of society, one of which is being in paid employment. If this norm is threatened or not followed it creates the basis for a social problem to emerge. So, if an individual is unable to find a job and claims benefits, this is seen as a social problem that the government needs to eliminate. Therefore, they would create relevant policy responses to correct the issue, such as benefit sanctions.