The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms: Research article

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1676 Scopus citations

Abstract

Despite a long tradition of effectiveness in laboratory tests, normative messages have had mixed success in changing behavior in field contexts, with some studies showing boomerang effects. To test a theoretical account of this inconsistency, we conducted a field experiment in which normative messages were used to promote household energy conservation. As predicted, a descriptive normative message detailing average neighborhood usage produced either desirable energy savings or the undesirable boomerang effect, depending on whether households were already consuming at a low or high rate. Also as predicted, adding an injunctive message (conveying social approval or disapproval) eliminated the boomerang effect. The results offer an explanation for the mixed success of persuasive appeals based on social norms and suggest how such appeals should be properly crafted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-434
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2007

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms: Research article'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this