The Constructive, Destructive, and Reconstructive Power of Social Norms: Reprise

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


The influence of social norms on behavior has been a longstanding storyline within social psychology. Our 2007 Psychological Science publication presented a new rendition of this classic telling. The reported field experiment showed that social norms could be leveraged to promote residential energy conservation, but importantly, the descriptive norm was shown to increase consumption for low-consuming households. This potential destructive effect of social norms was eliminated with the addition of an injunctive message of social approval for using less energy. The article is among the 30 most-cited articles across all APS publications, which we attribute to our methodology, which measured real behavior in a large-scale field experiment and to several circumstances associated with the timing of the work. The article coincided with the explosion of social media, the emergence of behavioral economics, and a heightened level of concern about climate change. These contemporaneous activities set the stage for our work and for its high degree of citation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-254
Number of pages6
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The original research summarized in this article was funded by Hewlett Foundation Grant 2001-7396.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © The Author(s) 2018.


  • allied field
  • behavioral economics
  • environment


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