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Deviance is the violation social norms whether they are enacted formally (for example, laws) or informally (for example, mores). However, differences exist in what different societies consider due to the different social norms.

An example of such differences is explicit in the communication norms of Westerners and Asians. In Europe, shyness, sensitivity, and reticent behaviors such as avoiding eye contact are considered deviant and are seen to portray lack of maturity and assertiveness. However, in many Oriental cultures such as the Chinese and Korean societies, these behaviors are not considered deviant but are rather seen as a portrayal of politeness. This difference in perception is due to difference in values where assertiveness is highly esteemed in the West as compared to the Asians who hold respect for seniors in equally high regard. The minimal contact between the two regions has further widened the gulf.

Deviance is sometimes judged differently depending on factors such as the circumstances leading to the commission of the deviant behavior and the social status of the one who commits the deviant act. In societies where morality is held in high regard, such as many societies in Sub-Saharan Africa, men of high status in the society are expected to be above reproach. Hence, the society judges them more harshly than those from a lower social class when they deviate from the norms. As such, these elites take deep considerations before acting as they know that deviant behavior may lead to erosion of the high esteem that they command. In other societies, however, deviant behavior such as crime is punished more heavily when committed by the low in the society. The rich or powerful individuals use their positions in the society to protect themselves from facing the consequences of their deviant behavior.

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