Normative social influence is underdetected

Jessica M. Nolan, P. Wesley Schultz, Robert B. Cialdini, Noah J. Goldstein, Vladas Griskevicius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1199 Scopus citations


The present research investigated the persuasive impact and detectability of normative social influence. The first study surveyed 810 Californians about energy conservation and found that descriptive normative beliefs were more predictive of behavior than were other relevant beliefs, even though respondents rated such norms as least important in their conservation decisions. Study 2, a field experiment, showed that normative social influence produced the greatest change in behavior compared to information highlighting other reasons to conserve, even though respondents rated the normative information as least motivating. Results show that normative messages can be a powerful lever of persuasion but that their influence is underdetected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-923
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Social inference
  • Social influence
  • Social norms


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