People may deliberately create individual, formal organizations commonly identified as "institutions"—but the development and function of institutions in society in general may be regarded as an instance of emergence. That is, institutions arise, develop and function in a pattern of social self-organization beyond conscious intentions of the individuals involved.
As mechanisms of social interaction, institutions manifest in both formal organizations, such as the U.S. Congress, or the Roman Catholic Church, and, also, in informal social order and organization, reflecting human psychology, culture, habits and customs, and encompassing subjective experience of meaningful enactments. Formal institutions are explicitly set forth by a relevant authority and informal institutions are generally unwritten societal rules, norms, and traditions.
Primary or meta-institutions are institutions that encompass many other institutions, both formal and informal (e.g. the family, government, the economy, education, and religion. ) Most important institutions, considered abstractly, have both objective and subjective aspects: examples include money and marriage. The institution of money encompasses many formal organizations, including banks and government treasury departments and stock exchanges, which may be termed, "institutions", as well as subjective experiences, which guide people in their pursuit of personal well-being. Powerful institutions are able to imbue a paper currency with certain value, and to induce millions into production and trade in pursuit of economic ends abstractly denominated in that currency's units. The subjective experience of money is so pervasive and persuasive that economists talk of the "money illusion" and try to disabuse their students of it, in preparation for learning economic analysis.