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Changing attitudes and behaviour
Joanne R. Smith
Anna Rabinovich
What are norms?
• Norm = the accepted or implied rules of how
individuals and group members should and do
think and behave
• Two types of norms:
• What other people do (descriptive norm)
• What other people approve of (injunctive norm)
2
Descriptive norms and change
• Descriptive norms form the basis of many
behaviour change campaigns
3
Descriptive norms and change
• But normative messages may create a psychological
backlash that undermines campaign efforts
• Descriptive norm messages can actually increase levels of
problem behaviour
“Many people
are doing this
bad thing”
“Many people
are doing this”
“I won’t be doing
the right thing”
9
Percentage of environmental theft
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
4
0
1
“Many past visitors
have
taken the petrified wood”
“Many2 past visitors have
left the petrified wood”
Injunctive norms and change
• Can we use injunctive norms to effect behaviour
change?
5
Injunctive norms and change
• But injunctive norms may also produce a psychological
backlash that undermines campaign efforts
• Injunctive norm messages can actually decrease levels of
desired behaviour
“We’re not
doing X”
“You should be
doing X”
“I won’t be
doing X”
Pro-environmental intentions
6
5
6
4
1
“85% think
you
should do X”
2
“85% are
doing X”
Norms and change
• So, what is the message for behaviour change agents?
• 1. Framing of normative messages must be correct
7
Norms and change
• So, what is the message for behaviour change agents?
• 2. Harness the power of both descriptive and injunctive
norms
DN absent
DN present
Sun protection behaviour
6.5
DN = Most do X
IN = Most approve
of X
5.5
8
4.5
IN absent
IN present
Summary and Implications
• Communicating that a behaviour is normative for
a group of people can produce desired behaviour
change
• “We engage in the behaviour and we approve of the
behaviour”
• By linking norms to different identities, we can
harness the power of both norms and social
identities to promote positive behaviour
9
10
Self-categorization theory
• People adopt the same norms and values that are
ascribed to the groups they belong to
• Group norms and values are defined on the basis
of comparison with other groups
• What we conclude about ourselves depends on
inter-group comparative context
We are not
like them
They are “green”
We are NOT “green”
I am like
others in
my group
I am not “green”,
I won’t behave
sustainably
11
I am not like them
Hypotheses
• Positive comparison leads to increase in env.
behaviour
• Negative inter-group comparison leads to
decrease in env. behaviour
Comparison with
un-environmental
group
“Green” in-group
stereotype
Proenvironmental
behaviour
Comparison with
pro-environmental
group
“Non-green” ingroup
stereotype
Unenvironmental
behaviour
12
Comparative context: group stereotype
4.4
in-group environmental stereotype
4.3
4.2
4.1
4
3.9
3.8
3.7
3.6
3.5
3.4
American
control
Swedish
• In-group environmental stereotype is stronger in the positive13
comparison context
Comparative context: intentions
3.4
3.3
environmental intentions
3.2
3.1
3
2.9
2.8
2.7
2.6
2.5
American
control
Swedish
• Environmental intentions are stronger in the positive
comparison context
14
Applied implications
• Inter-group comparison standard can be used
to stimulate desirable behaviour
• Negative comparison may undermine
desirable intentions
• Desirable changes can be stimulated by
providing a positive comparison standard
• Behaviour change does not have to start at an
individual level…
15