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Abstract

Although social norms can substantially impact consumer decision making, understanding of how the specification of the norm determines its impact is limited. This meta-analysis (200 independent studies, 659 effect sizes) examines how aspects of social norm specification determine the effect of norms on attitudes, behavioral intentions, and behavior. It argues and shows that descriptive norms have a larger impact on behavior than injunctive norms, whereas injunctive norms have a larger impact on attitudes than descriptive norms. Effects on behavior are also stronger when norms come from close and concrete sources (vs. authority figures or abstract others) and when the behavior is public (vs. private). No effects were found for specifications of the expected behavior, the consequences, or the target person.
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... Researchers put forward two explanations for the dominance of descriptive over injunctive normative messages. First, consumers comply more easily with descriptive norms through simple imitation as they already reflect the behavior of others, requiring lower cognitive effort (Cialdini, 2003;Melnyk et al., 2019). Second, communicating descriptive norms may introduce the injunctive norm whereas the opposite is not true (Elgaaied-Gambier et al., 2018). ...
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Consumer behaviors related to food consumption, such as meat consumption, is acknowledged to be a main contributor to the environmental problems. Recent research supports the efficacy of normative messages to change these behaviors for the good. Normative messages make the social norm salient in the behavioral context. Research shows that the normative messages are effective to encourage “desired” pro-environmental behavior if this behavior is carried out by a numerical majority. However, the pro-environmental consumer behaviors are often carried out by a minority of people only. Making salient these behaviors performed by minority of people in normative messages often backfires because the normative message makes salient that it is normal to perform the “undesirable” environmentally harmful behavior. To overcome this shortfall, research has experimented with highlighting that the desired behavior, although still a behavior by minority people, has increased in prevalence (i.e., a dynamic rather than static normative message). However, when such dynamic normative messages are most effective is less clear. Specifically, according to goal-framing theory, it can be assumed that a dynamic normative message highlighting that an increasing minority of people start carrying out the desirable behavior represents a gain frame, while emphasizing that the behavior performed by majority of people is decreasing indicates a loss frame. So far, research on dynamic normative messages only applied gain frames in their messages. This is surprising, as construal level theory (CLT) suggests that the dynamic normative messages will be more effective when framed as a loss. This study therefore tested whether a dynamic normative message is more effective than a static normative message or no message at all, depending on whether it is framed as a loss or a gain. In a one-way between-subject experimental design, including five experimental conditions [i.e., static descriptive normative message (1) gain framed or (2) loss framed; dynamic descriptive normative message (3) gain framed or (4) loss framed; (5) control condition; N = 270], we found that only dynamic normative messages that were framed as a loss were more effective in encouraging a consumer's intention to reduce meat consumption. Therefore, the dynamic normative messages are effective to encourage pro-environmental consumer behaviors of minority of people, but especially when they are framed as a loss rather than a gain.
... As a consequence, such communications inadvertently indicate a descriptive norm that plays against the pursued goal. Although the goal is to discourage the above-mentioned behaviors by using injunctive norms, research finds that descriptive norms are more influential on behaviors than injunctive ones (Cialdini, Kallgren, and Reno 1991;Melnyk, van Herpen, and van Trijp 2010). In a field experiment, Cialdini (2003) found that messages and signs directed at discouraging theft, but informing visitors of the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, that many visitors were stealing small pieces of petrified wood, inadvertently increased the theft rate in comparison to the control situation. ...
... The cultural and psychological factors just discussed have been repeatedly demonstrated to be important in decision-making [57][58][59][60][61][62][63]. There is a suite of corresponding mathematical models developed in economics and cultural evolution. ...
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Technological innovations drive the evolution of human societies. The success of innovations depends not only on their actual benefits but also on how potential adopters perceive them and how their beliefs are affected by their social and cultural environment. To deepen our understanding of socio-psychological processes affecting the new technology spread, we model the joint dynamics of three interlinked processes: individual learning and mastering the new technology, changes in individual attitudes towards it, and changes in individual adoption decisions. We assume that the new technology can potentially lead to a higher benefit but achieving it requires learning. We posit that individual decision-making process as well as their attitudes are affected by cognitive dissonance and conformity with peers and an external authority. Individuals vary in different psychological characteristics and in their attitudes. We investigate both transient dynamics and long-term equilibria observed in our model. We show that early adopters are usually individuals who are characterized by low cognitive dissonance and low conformity with peers but are sensitive to the effort of an external authority promoting the innovation. We examine the effectiveness of five different intervention strategies aiming to promote the diffusion of a new technology: training individuals, providing subsidies for early adopters, increasing the visibility of peer actions, simplifying the exchange of opinions between people, and increasing the effort of an external authority. We also discuss the effects of culture on the spread of innovations. Finally, we demonstrate that neglecting the cognitive forces and the dynamic nature of individual attitudes can lead to wrong conclusions about adoption of innovations. Our results can be useful in developing more efficient policies aiming to promote the spread of new technologies in different societies, cultures and countries.
... This study adapted the operationalization of SN from Ajzen (1991) regarding an individual's perception of social pressure to perform GCPB. Melnyk et al. (2010) found that SN displaces intention and directly impacts behavior. This is because individuals act according to self-interest and conveniently infer that their behavior is sensible if everyone else is engaging in it (Cialdini et al., 1990, as cited in Kim et al., 2012). ...
Article
Prior studies of pro-environmental behavior investigated its antecedents from the perspective of either rational choices or moral norms. However, as highlighted by many researchers, green purchase behavior associated with high-cost products such as green computers can be influenced by both perspectives. Thus, this study aims to predict the influence of the theory of planned behavior's (TPB) rational choice factors and the value-belief-norm (VBN) theory's moral norm factors on the green computer purchase behavior (GCPB) of consumers in the Malaysian context. A survey questionnaire was developed and administered to 1000 Malaysian respondents through convenience- and purposive-sampling methods. The structural equation modeling (SEM) function of the AMOS software was used to analyze the survey data and TPB factors (subjective norms), were found to be more important than the VBN factors (personal norms), in predicting GCPB. This implies that Malaysian consumers have a stronger tendency to follow social norms than fulfill moral obligations when deciding to buy green computers. Additionally, biospheric and altruistic values were drivers for the rational choice model while biospheric values drove the moral norm model. The results of this research provide recommendations to marketers, governments, environmental NGOs, educators, and manufacturers on how to communicate and engage with consumers to promote sustainable consumption through green computer purchases. The study's originality is in the development and use of a comprehensive integrated model that provides an understanding of consumer behavior when faced with moral-norm and rational-choice decisions in the purchase of a high-cost product in an emerging market context.
... Especially in ambiguous or uncertain situations, descriptive norms function well as a heuristic, because they provide the decision-maker with information about socially-accepted behavior (Higgs, 2015). Melnyk et al. (2010) found in their meta-analysis that descriptive norms are effective in influencing the consumers' behavior in general, and Robinson et al. (2014) confirmed their results regarding eating behavior, also by conducting a meta-analysis. Other research showed an improved ecologically sustainable behavior by the use of descriptive norms, for example by promoting less towel use in hotels (Goldstein et al., 2008) or supporting recycling (Nigbur et al., 2010). ...
Thesis
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Digitalization has long since entered and transformed our professional lives, our interaction with companies, and our private lives. With the progress in digitalization in general and of individuals in particular, both opportunities and challenges arise. Digitalization represents a double-edged sword, with its vast potential on the one end and a number of risks and detrimental effects for individuals, such as technostress, on the other. Individuals need to navigate the opportunities provided by digitalization, as well as its risks, in all areas of their lives. Addressing digitalization in a way that is in the best interest of individuals requires a thorough understanding of developments, challenges, and possible interventions and solutions. Matt et al. (2019) propose a framework for studying the digitalization of individuals, which represents a holistic approach to structure, classify, and position research along different roles of individuals from a comprehensive set of research angles. By applying this framework as a guiding structure, this dissertation aims to advance knowledge for an improved, safer, and more deliberate navigation of digitalization for individuals in their roles as employees, customers, and themselves from the research angles design, behavior, and consequences. While building on and integrating qualitative research methods such as literature analysis and expert interviews, this dissertation mainly relies on the collection of empirical data and their quantitative analysis. This comprises several small- and large-scale surveys and field experiments, as well as analytical methods such as structural equation modeling, regression analysis, and cluster analysis. Chapter 2 of this dissertation discusses the digitalization of individuals in their role as employees. Chapter 2.1 covers workplace design in terms of equipment with digital workplace technologies (DWTs) and the user behavior of employees. It determines which DWTs exist and are used by individual employees in a comprehensive and structured fashion. Contributing to a deeper understanding of workplace digitalization, chapter 2.1 also demonstrates and elaborates how this overview of DWTs represents a basis for individualized digital work design as well as adequate interventions. Chapter 2.2 deals with the consequences of DWT user behavior. It focuses on the relationship between workplace digitalization, the negative consequence technostress, and possible countermeasures termed “technostress inhibitors.” By enabling a more detailed understanding of the underlying mechanisms as well as evaluating the effects of countermeasures, chapter 2.2 discusses the overall finding that workplace digitalization increases technostress. The dynamics of its different components and technostress inhibitors, however, require individual consideration at a more detailed level, as the interrelationships are not consistently intuitive. In chapter 3, the focus changes to individuals in their role as customers. As a response to increasing data collection by companies as well as increasing data privacy concerns of customers, chapter 3.1 focuses on the identification of a comprehensive list of data privacy measures that address these concerns. Furthermore, it is identified that the implementation of some of these measures would lead to increased customer satisfaction, demonstrating that there is an upside to data privacy for companies and that mutually beneficial outcomes for both involved parties are conceivable. Chapter 3.2 analyzes whether and how digital nudging can be applied to influence customers’ online shopping behavior towards the selection of more environmentally sustainable products in online supermarkets and how this influence differs with respect to individual customer characteristics. It determines the digital nudging element “default rules” to be generally effective and “simplification” to be effective among environmentally conscious customers. On a macro level, the findings contribute to a safer environment in which individuals live their lives, while at the individual level, they foster decision-making quality and health. Chapter 4 highlights the digitalization of individuals themselves. Chapter 4.1 deals with the design of a habit-tracking app that offers users autonomy in their goal-directed behavior. It is found that the provision of autonomy enhances well-being. Its exercise improves performance, which in turn positively affects well-being. Chapter 4.1 thus contributes insights into how digital technologies can foster the flourishing of users. As a summary, this dissertation aims to provide research and practice with contributions to a deeper understanding of how individuals as employees, customers, and themselves can successfully navigate digitalization.
... The results seem to infer that social norm had little impact on both the decision to interview a witness, and perceived credibility. Considering the abundance of the general literature demonstrating social normative influence in various behaviors and contexts, these findings were unexpected (e.g., Rivis and Sheeran, 2003;Melnyk et al., 2010;Fischer et al., 2011;Baldry and Pagliaro, 2014;Bergquist et al., 2019), but more research within the police context is needed. ...
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Regarding police procedures with alcohol-intoxicated witnesses, Swedish police officers have previously reported inconsistent and subjective decisions when interviewing these potentially vulnerable witnesses. Most officers have also highlighted the need for national policy guidelines aiding in conducting investigative interviews with intoxicated witnesses. The aims of the two studies presented here were to investigate whether (1) police officers’ inconsistent interview decisions are attributable to a lack of research-based knowledge; (2) their decision to interview, as well as their perceptions of the witnesses’ credibility could be influenced by scientific research; and (3) police officers decision-making and perceptions of witness credibility are biased by pre-existing social norms. In two separate randomized online experiments, police professionals and recruits (Study 1, N = 43; Study 2, N = 214) watched a recorded fictive witness interview to which they were asked to rate the probability of interviewing the witness, the witness’ credibility, and to estimate the witness’ level of intoxication. Results showed that interview probability and perceived witness credibility were affected by witness intoxication level. While it cannot be stated definitely from the present research, these findings provided indications that police officers and recruits lacked research-based knowledge. Results also showed that interview probability, but not perceptions of credibility, was influenced by a research-based message. In line with research, interview probability for the most intoxicated witness increased after reading the message. Unexpectedly, neither interview probability nor witness credibility was affected by social norms. The current findings added to the legal psychology literature by showing that a breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) as low as .04% was enough for police officers and recruits to consider intoxicated witnesses less credible than sober witnesses. Findings also indicated that, despite the lower credibility assessment, police may have some understanding that these witnesses can be interviewed at low intoxication levels (i.e., around .04%). However, this willingness to interview intoxicated witnesses ceased at a BrAC lower than the levels where research has found intoxicated witnesses as reliable as sober witnesses (i.e., BrAC < .10%). Future directions for research and policy development as well as theoretical and practical implications of the present findings are discussed.
... Studies exhibiting herd behavior can also find a place within a broader literature on social norms. Melnyk et al. (2019) provide a comprehensive summary of the literature on the role of social norms in influencing consumption decisions of individuals, while making a distinction between descriptive norms (what most others do) and injunctive norms (what most others approve of). Providing a meta-analysis of the literature, they conclude that descriptive norms are likely to directly influence behavior (such as actual purchase decisions), while injunctive norms are more strongly correlated with intentions (such as what we attempt to capture in our study, with the hypothetical choice of a motorcycle). ...
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This article sheds light on a scarcely explored area of research relating to herd behavior in urban setting of developing economies, where the use of motorized two-wheelers have been increasing rapidly. Using a primary survey-based data from Nepal, we examine whether potential motorcycle buyers in the Kathmandu valley exhibit herd behavior or price-conscious behavior when making a hypothetical choice decision and then evaluate the determinants of the observed behavior. Using factor analysis, the paper identifies distinct homogeneous groups of respondents based on their preferences towards motorcycle attributes and on their psychological traits and attitudes. Not only we find a prevalence of herding in the choice of motorcycles, the results also find strong suggestive evidence that, in addition to gender and income, several latent factors related to preferences and psychological traits might play a crucial role in determining the herd behavior. We discuss policy implications in the context of consumer behavior and environmental policy in the backdrop of rapid vehicle demand and dangerous air pollution levels.
... Social norms reflect what behaviors a group deems desirable from its members (Spangenberg et al., 2003). Social norms are extremely influential in consumption decisions as consumers consider what others are doing and how they might evaluate any given decision (Melnyk et al., 2010). For consumers accessing services, whether they use conventional or CC options may be motivated in part by social norms (Barbosa & Fonseca, 2019). ...
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