Social control refers to societal and political mechanisms that regulate individual and group behaviour in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group. Sociologists identify two basic forms of social control - informal control and formal control.
Formal social control typically involves the state. External sanctions are enforced by the government to prevent chaos, violence, or anomie in society. An example of this would be a law preventing individuals from committing theft. Some theorists, like Émile Durkheim, refer to this type of control as regulation.
Informal control typically involves an individual internalizing certain norms and values. This process is called socialization. The social values present in individuals are products of informal social control, exercised implicitly by a society through particular customs, norms, and mores. Individuals internalize the values of their society, whether conscious or not of this indoctrination.
Informal sanctions may include shame, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism, and disapproval, which can cause an individual to conform to the social norms of the society. In extreme cases, sanctions may include social discrimination, exclusion, and violence. Informal social control has the potential to have a greater impact on an individual than formal control. When social values become internalized, they become an aspect of an individual's personality.
Informal sanctions check 'deviant' behavior. An example of a negative sanction is depicted in a scene in 'The Wall,' a film by Pink Floyd. In this scene, a young protagonist is ridiculed and verbally abused by a high school teacher for writing poetry in a mathematics class. Another example occurs in the movie 'About a Boy. " In this film, a young boy hesitates to jump from a high springboard and is ridiculed for his fear. Though he eventually jumps, his behaviour is controlled by shame, not by his internal desire to jump.
Informal means of control
At funerals, people tend to comport themselves to look as if they are grieving, even if they did not know the person who passed away. This is example of a social situation controlling an individual's emotions.