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Abstract

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.
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Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
DOI: 10.1177/0146167208316691
2008; 34; 913 Pers Soc Psychol Bull
Jessica M. Nolan, P. Wesley Schultz, Robert B. Cialdini, Noah J. Goldstein and Vladas Griskevicius
Normative Social Influence is Underdetected
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913
Normative Social Influence is Underdetected
Jessica M. Nolan
University of Arkansas
P. Wesley Schultz
California State University, San Marcos
Robert B. Cialdini
Arizona State University
Noah J. Goldstein
University of Chicago
Vladas Griskevicius
University of Minnesota
threat (Latané & Darley, 1970). In these situations, it
seems clear that the direct personal experience of wit-
nessing another person act can be influential in one’s
own actions (Terry & Hogg, 2001; Turner, 1991).
More recent research has shown that direct observa-
tion of others is not required for normative social
influence to have its effect. Instead, communicating a
descriptive norm—how most people behave in a given
situation—via written information can induce confor-
mity to the communicated behavior (Parks, Sanna, &
Berel, 2001; Von Borgstede, Dahlstrand, & Biel, 1999).
Authors’ Note: Funding for this study was provided by a grant from the
Hewlett Foundation (2001-7396) and by National Science Foundation
Graduate Research Fellowships provided to the fourth and fifth authors.
Our appreciation goes to Kimberly Brown, Allen Risley, and Lori Large
from the Social and Behavioral Research Institute and Azar Khazian for
their help on Study 1. We also want to acknowledge the work of our
field research team on Study 2: Veronica Briseno, Dulcinea Contreras,
Matt Dorlaque, Reginald Hartfield, Edgar Medina, Laura Murphy,
Leezel Nazareno, Rene Quiroz, Ronald Tilos, Monica Tinajero, and
Christina Wade. Study 2 was conducted while the first author was at
California State University, San Marcos, as part of her master’s thesis.
Portions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the
Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Palm Springs, CA, 2006.
Address correspondence to Jessica M. Nolan, Department of
Psychology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701; e-mail:
jmn03@uark.edu.
PSPB, Vol. 34 No. 7, July 2008 913-923
DOI: 10.1177/0146167208316691
© 2008 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
The present research investigated the persuasive impact
and detectability of normative social influence. The first
study surveyed 810 Californians about energy conserva-
tion 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 influ-
ence produced the greatest change in behavior com-
pared to information highlighting other reasons to
conserve, even though respondents rated the normative
information as least motivating. Results show that nor-
mative messages can be a powerful lever of persuasion
but that their influence is underdetected.
Keywords: social norms; social influence; pro-environmental
behavior; social inference
N
ormative social influence is potent and widespread.
The cumulative findings from the research on nor-
mative social influence are clear—witnessing the actions
of other people has a powerful effect on behavior (Asch,
1956; Berkowitz, 1972; Darley & Latané, 1970;
Deutsch & Gerard, 1955; Milgram, Bickman, &
Berkowitz, 1969; Sherif, 1936; for a review, see Cialdini
& Goldstein, 2004). It can lead people to say things they
know to be untrue (Asch, 1956), to use illicit drugs
(Maxwell, 2002), or to fail to respond to an imminent
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For example, Schultz (1999) found that households that
received normative information describing the amount
recycled by an average neighborhood family increased
both the amount and frequency of their subsequent
curbside recycling behaviors. Similar results were found
in a hotel setting where normative messages increased
towel reuse by more than 28% (Goldstein, Cialdini, &
Griskevicius, in press). The use of written normative
information has also become common practice in
attempts to reduce heavy drinking among college
students (e.g., Haines & Spear, 1996; Perkins, 2003).
Detecting Social Influence
Having established the tenacity of normative social
influence, researchers have now begun to question and
speculate about the extent to which people are able to
detect the influence of social norms on behavior
(Cialdini, 2005; Schultz, Nolan, Cialdini, Goldstein, &
Griskevicius, 2007). When choosing to engage in a
given behavior (e.g., Cialdini, Reno, & Kallgren, 1990)
or reporting an opinion (Griskevicius, Goldstein,
Mortensen, Cialdini, & Kenrick, 2006; Von Borgstede
et al., 1999), do individuals recognize the real or imag-
ined presence of others as a causal antecedent? Is con-
formity to normative social influence the result of a
conscious or nonconscious influence on behavior?
Nonconscious Influences on Behavior
In the past 25 years, substantial attention has been
given to the study of nonconscious influences on behavior
(Bargh, 2006). Much of this research has used subtle acti-
vation, or “priming,” of a concept followed by subse-
quent observation of the participant on a behavior related
to that concept (e.g., Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996;
Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007). This research has produced
unexpected results, showing that subtle, imperceptible
primes can produce strong and perceptible changes in
behavior. In the realm of social norms and conformity,
research has shown that activating the goal of going to the
library, which is associated with the situational norm of
being quiet, led participants to lower their voices (Aarts &
Dijksterhuis, 2003). Similarly, participants who were
primed with words related to conformity (e.g., adhere,
agree, comply) were subsequently more likely to conform
to the opinions of confederates who gave very favorable
evaluations of a boring task (Epley & Gilovich, 1999).
The observed behavior of other people may also be
processed nonconsciously. For example, participants
mimicked a confederate who was either rubbing their face
or shaking their foot but were unaware that they had done
so (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999).
Influence is also considered nonconscious when the
stimulus is perceived but is not evaluated as influential
(Bargh, 1992, 1999; Bowers, 1984; Nisbett & Wilson,
1977). For example, a plethora of laboratory and field
studies on the bystander effect has shown that the pres-
ence of other people reduces the probability that any
one person will offer help (for a review, see Latané &
Nida, 1981). Although the bystander effect is well
established in the social psychological literature and is
known to have a reliable impact on behavior, during
debriefing, individuals generally deny the impact of the
presence of other people on their decision not to help
(Latané & Darley, 1970). Similarly, in Sherif’s (1937)
classic study on conformity during an ambiguous task,
participants denied that their judgments of how much
the light moved were influenced by the estimates given
by other people in their group. These informal observa-
tions suggest that even in situations where the partici-
pant is likely to be aware of a causal stimulus, they may
fail to identify this stimulus as the cause of their subse-
quent behavior. Cialdini (2005) has argued that given
the ubiquity and strength of normative social influence,
it is surprising how little note people take of this potent
form of influence when, as observers, they decide how
to interpret the causes of their own actions.
Naive Psychology
People may have been unable to discern the influence
that the presence of others had on their behavior
because they had an existing cultural theory that pro-
vided them with a plausible alternative explanation for
their behavior (e.g., “I didn’t help because it’s better to
mind your own business”). Thus, people’s naive expla-
nations for their behavior may get in the way of detect-
ing the true cause of behavior.
Naive psychology refers to the layperson’s conception of
behavior and mental processes (Heider, 1958). Nisbett and
Wilson (1977) referred to these naive explanations as a pri-
ori, or implicit, causal theories. They concluded that verbal
reports of behavior, more often, represented these culturally
shared theories that could be generated equally well by an
observer. For example, in reporting on how factors such as
physical appearance and academic credentials influenced
judgments of intelligence, flexibility, sympathy, and like-
ability, actors’ estimates were highly inaccurate and no
better than that of observers (Nisbett & Bellows, 1977).
Individuals suffer from an introspection illusion
when judging the cause of their own behavior (Pronin,
Molouki, & Berger, 2007). That is, individuals place
greater weight on introspective thoughts and beliefs
related to their decision to conform than to the behav-
ioral evidence of their conformity. For example, if Jane
is told that most students at her university support a
change in the early decision policy, then she is more
likely to support the change in policy herself, compared
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to those who are told that most students do not support
the change. However, when asked why she supports the
change in policy, Jane is likely to cite personal thoughts
and reasoning as the most influential cause for her
support.
Overview
Although many studies have demonstrated the power
of social norms, few studies have looked at whether par-
ticipants are able to detect the influence of social norms
on their own behavior. The present research is concerned
with the contention that individuals sorely underesti-
mate the extent to which their actions in a situation are
determined by the similar actions of others. We examine
this prediction in a domain that has received substantial
public attention—the behavioral dimensions of climate
change. For a variety of reasons (e.g., dwindling supplies
of nonrenewable energy, concern for the welfare of
future generations, and a general reverence for nature),
numerous organizations have urged citizens toward a
pro-environmental stance and away from environmen-
tally damaging activities.
In the present research, our purpose was to investigate
participants’ awareness of the causal relationship
between descriptive social norms and their behavior. To
do so, we conducted two studies. In Study 1 (a large-
scale, stratified, telephone survey), we explored respon-
dents’ stated reasons for engaging in energy conservation.
Study 1 also provided an initial test of the actual factors
influencing participants’ conservation behavior. In
Study 2 (a field experiment), we extended existing
research on normative social influence by assessing par-
ticipants’ awareness of the extent to which different
messages affected their behavior. Study 2 also provides
a direct test of the accuracy of the causal explanations
elicited from participants in Study 1.
STUDY 1
The goal of this first study was to conduct a prelim-
inary investigation into the extent to which people’s
beliefs about what motivates them to conserve energy
correspond to the factors that correlate with their self-
reported intention to conserve. We wanted to know
what a priori beliefs people held about why they con-
serve energy and to examine the relative weight that
participants would ascribe to social norms as a factor in
their decisions to conserve energy at home. To address
these questions, we surveyed a diverse sample of
California residents regarding their energy conservation
behaviors, motivations for conserving energy, and rele-
vant normative and nonnormative beliefs.
Method
Participants. The survey data reported here were part
of a larger survey of energy conservation beliefs, moti-
vations, and actions among Californians. Data in that
larger survey were collected quarterly for a 3-year period.
The data reported below are from random-digit-dialing
interviews with 810 participants obtained between
October 2003 and January 2004, when the addition of
certain survey items allowed for a test of the hypotheses
of the present study.
Materials. Survey items were designed to measure
self-reported efforts to conserve energy, perceived rea-
sons for conservation, beliefs about the broad benefits
of energy conservation, descriptive normative beliefs
regarding energy conservation, and demographics.
Self-reported intention to conserve was measured by
the question “How often do you try to conserve energy?”
(never = 1, sometimes = 2, frequently = 3, almost always
= 4). Along with this item, we also included a question
about the perceived extent to which various factors,
including the descriptive norm, motivated participants
to conserve. To better understand the naive psychology
of conserving energy, we selected three commonly used
arguments that are employed in public appeals to con-
serve energy (see Goldstein & Cialdini, 2007): saving
money, environmental protection, and social responsi-
bility. We also included an item that asked participants
about the importance of social norms in their decisions
to conserve energy. The questions read, “In deciding to
conserve energy, how important is it to you ...” (a)
that using less energy saves money, (b) that it protects
the environment, (c) that it benefits society, and (d) that
a lot of other people are trying to conserve energy.
Responses were made on a 4-point scale (not at all
important = 1, somewhat important = 2, very important
= 3, extremely important = 4).
In addition to measuring the reported reasons for
conserving energy, we also asked about their beliefs
related to energy conservation. That is, we asked about
their broad beliefs regarding energy conservation, not
whether these beliefs motivated them to act. This would
allow us to look at the relationship between beliefs and
intention and to provide an initial assessment of the
accuracy of participants’ naive beliefs. The questions
were as follows: (a) How much do you think conserving
energy will benefit society? (b) How much do you think
conserving energy will protect the natural environment?
(c) How much money do you think you can save by
conserving energy in your home? and (d) How often do
you think your neighbors try to conserve energy?
Responses were on a 4-point scale ranging from 1 (not
at all) to 4 (extremely).
Nolan et al. / UNDERDETECTED INFLUENCE 915
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Descriptive normative beliefs were measured with three
items: “How often do you think your neighbors try to
conserve energy” (never = 1, sometimes = 2, frequently =
3, almost always = 4), “How often do you think residents
of your city try to conserve energy?” and “How often do
you think Californians try to conserve energy?” The items
were averaged to create a scale score; Cronbach’s alpha
for the three normative belief items (neighbors, city resi-
dents, Californians) was .79 (M = 2.58, SD = .63).
Demographic items included gender, age, ethnicity, educa-
tion, income, and household size.
One potential limitation in our study is the use of single-
item measures. However, single-item measures may be
less problematic than is often thought. For example,
previous research on job satisfaction has shown that
single-item measures are often as accurate as multi-item
scales (Wanous, Reichers, & Hudy, 1997).
Procedure. Survey data were collected with the col-
laboration of the Social and Behavioral Research
Institute (SBRI) at California State University (CSU),
San Marcos. Data were collected using Computer
Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) software and
were stratified by region of the state (Northern, Bay
Area, Central, Los Angeles, Southern). The interviews
lasted an average of 13 min. The response rate was 40%
and the cooperation rate was 48% (see Council of
American Survey Research Organizations, 1982, for
description of these measures). Surveys were conducted
in either English (88%) or Spanish (12%).
Results and Discussion
Before analyzing the data, we examined the represen-
tativeness of the sample by comparing the age, gender,
ethnicity, and income distributions of the sample with
the 2000 California Census. Of the demographic data
we collected, there were no substantial deviations from
California census data.
Naive psychology of energy conservation. The survey
contained a series of items about the perceived reasons
for energy conservation. The items read, “In deciding to
conserve energy, how important is it to you. . .” These
items reflect a respondent’s perceptions, or causal
beliefs, about why they engaged in conservation activi-
ties. As shown in Table 1, the most highly rated reason
for conserving energy was environmental protection (M =
3.41, SD = .75), followed by benefits to society
(M = 3.17, SD = .77), saving money (M = 3.07, SD = .76),
and other people are doing it (M = 2.93, SD = .83). A
one-way, within-subjects ANOVA revealed significant
differences across the four reasons for conservation,
F(3, 2400) = 87.17, p < .001; all means were signifi-
cantly different from each other (p < .01). These results,
which suggest that people are motivated to conserve
energy out of a concern for the environment or future
generations, is consistent with research showing that
people tend to generate causal theories that are self-
serving (Kunda, 1987). That is, people see themselves as
conserving because it “saves the environment” or
“ensures a happy future for children,” but they are less
likely to believe that the behavior of others would have an
influence on their own conservation behaviors. Regardless
of their accuracy, naive explanations of behavior can have
an influence on self-reports (Malle, 1999).
As follow-up analyses to the stated reasons for con-
servation, we examined the relationship between con-
servation efforts and beliefs about saving energy: saving
energy saves money, benefits future generations, pro-
tects the environment, and other people (i.e., my neigh-
bors) are saving energy. Correlation coefficients
showing the strength of the relationship between each
of these beliefs and reported levels of conservation are
shown in Table 1. As shown, the strongest predictor of
energy conservation was the belief that other people are
doing it (r = .45, p < .01), despite the fact that it was
rated as the least important motivating factor. The
other beliefs about energy conservation were only
weakly correlated with behavior: saving money (r =
.03), environmental protection (r = .06), and benefiting
future generations (r = .23, p < .01).
Normative beliefs and behavior. The primary goal of a
second set of analyses was to further examine the relation-
ship between descriptive normative beliefs and conserva-
tion behavior and to provide an initial test of how well
people can detect normative social influence. We con-
ducted a hierarchical multiple regression using descriptive
normative beliefs to predict self-reported intentions to
conserve energy after controlling for demographic vari-
ables and naive beliefs about conservation.
To examine the unique contribution of descriptive
normative beliefs on conservation behavior, we con-
ducted a three-step hierarchical multiple regression. On
the first step, the demographic variables of gender, age,
income, education, and language of the survey were
entered. On the second step, the four reported reasons
for conservation (i.e., saving money, environmental
protection, social responsibility, others are doing it)
were entered. Finally, on the third step, we entered the
three-item descriptive normative belief scale. Because we
wanted to see the unique contribution of each variable,
each variable was forced into the equation; we did not
use a stepwise procedure. The final regression equation
was statistically significant, F(10, 640) = 17.02, p <
.001. On the first step, demographic variables alone
explained 8% of the variance, with age and gender
making a significant contribution to the prediction of
conservation efforts. The addition of naive explanations
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for conservation behavior on the second step increased
the explained variance to 15%, with saving money and
environmental protection as significant predictors. The
addition of descriptive normative beliefs to the predic-
tion equation increased the explained variance to 21%.
The significant predictors in the final equation were age,
with older participants reporting more conservation
than younger ones; language of the survey, with
English-speaking respondents conserving more than
Spanish-speaking respondents; saving money; environ-
mental protection; and descriptive normative beliefs.
Table 2 shows the final regression weights for all of the
predictor variables included in the regression analysis.
By controlling for the naive explanations of conserva-
tion behavior, the degree to which descriptive norma-
tive beliefs are predictive of behavior in the final step
represents an influence on behavior that is not recog-
nized by the respondent.
Consistent with the kinds of appeals used in popular
discourse, our participants reported that several factors
influenced their conservation behavior, such as the
desire to save money, save the environment, and benefit
society in general. Of interest, they reported that their
normative beliefs had the least impact on their overall
conservation behavior relative to all other motivations.
Yet, despite the perception that other people’s behavior
was least influential on their decision to conserve,
beliefs of how often their neighbors tried to conserve
showed a strong correlation with respondents’ own
reported conservation efforts.
STUDY 2
Our initial study allowed us to acquire a rich set of
data. Unlike in similar research of this nature, our large
and wide-ranging sample consisted of people who dif-
fered on many important demographic dimensions,
including socioeconomic status, age, ethnicity, and
gender. Not only did this representative sample enable
us to examine the impact of social norms across these
different demographic variables, it also gave us more
confidence in the reliability and generalizability of our
findings. Of course, the correlational nature of the study
did not allow us to establish causal relationships.
To further examine the perceived influence of nor-
mative information, we conducted a second study using
an experimental design. This time, we wanted to use
normative information to change behavior and then to
examine perceptions of the degree to which the norma-
tive information was motivational. Once again, our par-
ticipants consisted of a sample of California residents,
except that this time we provided household members
with a specific appeal urging them to conserve energy in
the home. Three of the appeals used a nonnormative
message based on one of the three reasons for saving
energy that our Study 1 participants identified as most
influential: to protect the environment, to benefit society,
or to save money. A separate appeal simply communi-
cated a descriptive norm indicating that the majority of
Nolan et al. / UNDERDETECTED INFLUENCE 917
TABLE 1: Naive Explanations for Energy Conservation and Correlation Between Broad Beliefs About Energy Conservation and Self-Reported
Behavior
Correlation Between Broad Beliefs
Naive Explanations for About Conservation and
Energy Conservation Self-Reported Behavior
MSDr SE
Environmental protection 3.41
a
.75 .06
a
.04
Benefit to society 3.17
b
.77 .23
b
.04
Saving money 3.07
c
.76 .03
a
.04
Other people are doing it 2.93
d
.83 .45
c
.04
NOTE: Standard error was calculated using the standard error formula for r (SE = , N = 807. Means in the same column that do not
share the same subscripts differ at p < .05.
TABLE 2: Final Regression Weights, t Values, and p Values for All
Predictors of Self-Reported Intention to Conserve
Beta
Predictor (standardized) t Value p
Demographics
Age .21 5.71 .00
Gender –.01 –0.15 .89
Income –.06 –1.52 .13
Education .01 0.26 .79
Language of survey –.09 –2.03 .04
Naive explanations for conservation
Environmental protection .17 3.56 .00
Benefit to society –.00 –0.05 .96
Saving money .15 3.66 .00
Other people are doing it .04 1.01 .31
Descriptive normative beliefs .26 6.89 .00
1
N-3
)
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the recipient’s neighbors conserved energy—the same
type of normative information that respondents in our
first study considered the least motivational but showed
the strongest relationship with their reported efforts to
conserve. The effects of these four appeals were compared
to a control condition that included an information-only
appeal.
Besides manipulating the type of information that
participants received, Study 2 improved on our initial
study in another important way: The dependent vari-
able was participants’ actual energy use in the home as
indicated by their electricity meter readings before and
after the intervention. Having access to participants’
meters not only reduced the possible effects of self-
presentation and memory bias but also provided a
direct measure of the behavior of interest.
With regard to participants’ actual energy consump-
tion, we hypothesized that the descriptive norm condi-
tion would be superior to all of the other conditions at
motivating energy conservation. That is, households in
the descriptive norm condition would show the lowest
level of energy consumption following the intervention.
We had a separate set of predictions related to
participants’ awareness of the influence of the messages
on their energy conservation behavior. Although we
expected the descriptive norm condition to be most effi-
cacious, we also expected, based on the results of Study
1, that participants would rate the normative message
as least influential. We also predicted that consistent
with the naive explanations provided in Study 1, partic-
ipants would rate the social responsibility and environ-
mental messages as most motivating but that this verbal
report of motivation would not correspond to actual
conservation.
In summary, we aimed to accomplish three goals in
Study 2: extend the research on normative social influ-
ence, assess participants’ ability to detect the influence
of normative information, and test the accuracy of naive
psychology-based explanations of energy conservation.
Methods
Participants. Our field study began with a starting
sample of 981 households in the middle-class neighbor-
hoods of San Marcos, California.
1
Of those 981 house-
holds, 509 participated in a postintervention interview
(52%). Included in the present study are 371 house-
holds from the sample of interviewed households (73%)
that reported seeing and reading the doorhangers that
were distributed during the intervention. There are sev-
eral possibilities for why people did not report seeing
the doorhangers. First, respondents may have seen the
doorhangers but forgot about them at the time of the
interview. Second, the person who responded to our
interview may not have been the same person within the
household who discovered the doorhangers. A chi-
square analysis showed that there were no significant
differences in how many people saw and read the
doorhangers across the five conditions, χ
2
(4, N = 509)
= 6.63, ns. The average respondent was 46 years old,
had 8.6 years of tenure at the address, and reported an
average household size of 3.2 people.
Materials and procedure. Households were randomly
assigned to receive one of five experimental messages:
descriptive norm, self-interest, environment, social
responsibility, or information-only control.
Intervention. Before the study began, households
received a mailed postcard notifying them that a study
was being conducted in their neighborhood. The postcard
provided contact information for our university research
team and offered residents the opportunity to withdraw
from the study (none did so). Five days after the postcards
were mailed, trained research assistants began delivering
persuasive messages to each household promoting energy
conservation. The messages were printed on doorhangers
and contained a message promoting one energy conserva-
tion behavior along with a graphic icon illustrating the
behavior. All of the doorhangers included the local univer-
sity logo and contact information. The doorhangers were
printed on both sides, with English on one side and a
Spanish translation on the reverse. A total of four differ-
ent energy conservation behaviors were promoted during
this study: taking shorter showers, turning off unnecessary
lights, turning off the air conditioning at night, and using
fans instead of air conditioning. These behaviors were
selected through a review of publications generated by the
local utility: San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). The
behaviors were further tested through the phone survey
described in Study 1. Twenty messages, one for each of
the four behaviors, were created for each of the five con-
ditions. Doorhangers in the information-only condition
stated only that participants could save energy by adopt-
ing the behavior being promoted. In the descriptive norm,
self-interest, environment, and social responsibility condi-
tions, the doorhangers also contained motivational infor-
mation about why the household should adopt the
energy-conserving behavior (e.g., 99% of people in your
community reported turning off unnecessary lights to save
energy) and a graphic that symbolized the condition (e.g.,
a globe for the environment condition). Samples of the
headings and key information from each type of
doorhanger are included in the appendix.
Of importance, the normative information presented
on the doorhangers was factual. Using the survey data
obtained as part of our larger statewide survey, we were
able to identify a small number of completed surveys
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from the local region. These surveys served as the basis
for our normative messages and, depending on the
behavior, these percentages ranged from 77% to 99%.
Following the final distribution of doorhangers, all
households received a postcard notifying them that
student researchers would be conducting interviews in
their neighborhood.
Door-to-door interviews. Following the final distrib-
ution of the doorhangers, trained interviewers, blind to
condition, contacted all households included in the
study to conduct interviews. Interviewers, working in
teams of two, contacted households in person to admin-
ister the interview. After confirming that the respondent
was a resident at that address, the interviewer obtained
verbal consent and then proceeded with the interview.
The interview began by asking respondents if they “saw
and read one or more yellow doorhangers with informa-
tion about energy conservation in the last month.” As
mentioned previously, only those respondents who
reported seeing and reading the doorhanger are included
in the present analysis.
The remainder of the interview questions assessed the
extent to which respondents perceived that the doorhang-
ers had motivated them to conserve energy. Respondents’
estimation of the influence of the doorhangers on their
energy conservation behavior was measured with a single
item that asked “How much did the information on these
doorhangers motivate you to conserve energy?” If people
rely on their a priori or naive beliefs about energy conser-
vation when answering this question, then they should
report that the social responsibility doorhanger was most
effective, regardless of its actual effect. If, on the other
hand, people are consciously processing the information,
comparing their behavior before and after delivery of the
doorhangers, then their estimates of how motivated they
were should correspond to estimates of actual energy con-
servation for each condition.
At the end of the interview, respondents were offered
a free compact fluorescent light bulb and were asked to
sign an authorization form granting permission to
access their household energy bills from the local utility
company. If no contact was made after three attempts,
a mail survey with a cover letter describing the experi-
ment was left in a self-addressed, stamped envelope at
the respondent’s home along with a light bulb.
Meter readings. In addition to collecting self-report
data on energy conservation during the interviews and
requesting access to household energy bills, the
researchers read the electricity meters for households
with accessible meters. Electricity meters were recorded
four times during the study. The first meter reading was
taken the week prior to the intervention, the second
meter reading was taken on the same day that the first
doorhanger was distributed, the third meter reading
was taken the same day the fourth doorhanger was dis-
tributed, and the fourth meter reading was taken 1
month following the delivery of the last doorhanger. By
comparing each reading to a subsequent one, we were
able to calculate an average daily kilowatt use figure for
the baseline, shorter-term (1 month from baseline), and
longer-term (2 months from baseline) periods. In Study
1, we learned that naive beliefs about energy conserva-
tion supported causal explanations that appealed to
concern for future generations, environmental protec-
tion, and saving money. Assessment of the actual energy
consumption of households in these different conditions
provided a direct test of the accuracy of peoples’ naive
causal explanations, allowing us to determine whether
it was true, as people reported, that an appeal to social
responsibility or environmental protection would be
most effective at promoting energy conservation.
Results and Discussion
Detecting normative social influence. Participants
were asked “How much did the information on these
doorhangers motivate you to conserve energy?” with
responses ranging from 1 (not at all) to 4 (extremely).
Participants in the descriptive norm condition reported
that the messages were the least motivational (M = 1.76,
SE = .10). Pairwise comparisons showed that these
scores were significantly lower than for participants in
the environmental condition (M = 2.07, SE = .08, p < .05)
and social responsibility condition (M = 1.99, SE = .09,
p < .08) but not significantly different from the self-interest
condition (M = 1.86, SE = .08) or the information-only
condition (M = 1.94, SE = .11). This pattern is similar to
that found in the survey data reported in Study 1,
wherein environmental reasons and social responsibility
were identified as the two reasons that people believed
were most influential to conserve energy.
Meter readings. To assess the reliability of our meter
readings, two research assistants were assigned to read
the same meter on multiple occasions (4% of all read-
ings). The independent readings correlated at r = .999.
In addition, our measure of electricity use correlated
with data provided by the local utility company at r =
.964 during the short term (June) and at r = .992 long
term (July). The correlations between our measures and
SDG&E were for those households that granted permis-
sion to access their bill (N = 187). This high correlation
with data provided by the utility company supports the
validity of our meter readings measure. Meter data were
converted to kilowatt hours used per day. Use during the
short term correlated at r = .61 with long-term use.
Nolan et al. / UNDERDETECTED INFLUENCE 919
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Our second step was to establish that the stimulus of
interest, in this case the normative information, had an
effect on behavior. Of the 371 households that we inter-
viewed, 271 produced usable meter data.
2
A 5 (condi-
tion) × 2 (meter readings available: yes or no) ANOVA
showed that there were no differences between those
included in the meter reading analysis and those who
were not on the measure of how much the doorhangers
motivated them to conserve energy, F(1, 369) = .62, ns.
The meter data provided the dependent variable in a
series of analyses designed to test the impact of our per-
suasive messages. To account for differences in baseline
electricity use across groups, we conducted a one-way
ANCOVA with baseline use as a covariate and the
short-term meter data as the dependent variable. The
baseline covariate was significant, F(1, 265) = 1025.33,
p < .001. In support of one of our major hypotheses, a
planned contrast revealed that participants in the
descriptive norm condition (M
adj
= 12.97, SE = .44, N =
46) used significantly less energy short term than did
participants in the combined other conditions (M
adj
=
14.17, SE = .20), F(1, 268) = 5.99, p < .05. Table 3 pro-
vides the means and standard errors for each of the five
conditions, adjusted for baseline energy consumption.
The pattern of means for long-term use was similar,
with the descriptive group consuming the least amount
of electricity, after controlling for baseline use. Again,
we conducted a one-way ANCOVA with baseline
energy consumption as the covariate and long-term
energy consumption as the dependent variable. The
baseline covariate was significant, F(1, 264) = 309.16,
p < .001. As shown in Table 3, the pattern of means for
long-term energy consumption was similar to short-
term use, with the descriptive norm condition (M
adj
=
16.07) consuming the least amount of energy compared
to the other conditions. However, the planned contrast
of descriptive norm versus the combined mean of the
other conditions was not significant, F(1, 268) = 1.42,
p = .24. The nonsignificant contrast for the long-term
energy data suggests that the impact of the descriptive
norm message had begun to erode in the 1 month fol-
lowing the intervention. The increase in energy con-
sumption from short term to long term reflects seasonal
changes in the weather, independent of our interven-
tion. Overall, these results are inconsistent with the
naive psychology-based explanations of conservation
endorsed in Study 1.
In summary, despite the private nature of conserving
energy in the home, normative social influence had a
direct impact on residents’ conservation behavior. Meter
readings showed that a descriptive normative message—a
message merely containing information about the conser-
vation behavior of the majority of one’s neighbors—
spurred people to conserve more energy than did the
control message or any of the three other messages that
contained appeals that are traditionally accorded motiva-
tional power. That is, the three messages using arguments
based on motivations that were rated as being the most
influential in Study 1 fared worse at spurring conservation
behavior than just providing people with normative infor-
mation about their neighbors’ conservation efforts.
Furthermore, the experimental nature of Study 2 con-
firmed that the positive relationship between descriptive
norms and behavior in Study 1 was not simply due to a
false consensus effect. Of interest, although the normative
message was most effective at changing behavior, resi-
dents did not detect the influence of these messages, rating
them as least motivating.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
In conclusion, we found that naive psychology-based
beliefs about energy conservation were inaccurate pre-
dictors of actual energy conservation. Implicit theories
of energy conservation–related motives were plainly
wrong. Despite the fact that participants believed that
the behavior of their neighbors—the descriptive norm—
had the least impact on their own energy conservation,
results showed that the descriptive norm actually had
920 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN
TABLE 3: Short-Term and Long-Term Energy Consumption Adjusted for Baseline Energy Consumption
Energy Consumption in Average Daily Kilowatt Hours (kWh)
Short Term Long Term
Condition MSEM SE
Environmental protection 14.12 .39 16.89 .81
Social responsibility 14.18 .41 17.52 .85
Self-interest 14.01 .40 17.45 .82
Social norm 12.97 .44 16.10 .93
Information control 14.42 .45 17.36 .94
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the strongest effect on participants’ energy conservation
behaviors. That is, normative information spurred
people to conserve more energy than any of the stan-
dard appeals that are often used to stimulate energy
conservation, such as protecting the environment, being
socially responsible, or even saving money. Descriptive
norms had a powerful but underdetected effect on an
important social behavior: energy conservation.
A similar pattern of results can be found in research
on the indirect effects of minority influence. In studies
examining the extent to which minority group members
can exert influence on group decisions, people often
deny the influence of minority sources on their atti-
tudes. Yet, the results show clear evidence that group
members are influenced by minority sources on both
private and delayed measures of attitude change
(Aebischer, Hewstone, & Henderson, 1984; Alvaro &
Crano, 1996; Crano, 2001; Maass & Clark, 1983; for
a review, see Maass & Clark, 1984) and on attitudes
that are related to the focal issue of the persuasive mes-
sage (e.g., De Dreu, De Vries, Gordijn, & Schuurman,
1999). Taken together, it seems that both informational
and normative social influence are underdetected.
In our study, had the participants been aware of the
influence of the normative information on their energy
conservation behavior during the intervention, we may
not have seen such a dramatic decrease in consumption.
Research on mental contamination suggests that when
people are made aware that unwanted agents may be
influencing their judgments, they often will try to cor-
rect for any biasing effects (for a review, see Wilson &
Brekke, 1994). Consider the impact of being informed
about pluralistic ignorance. As social psychologists, our
knowledge of the biasing effects of the presence of oth-
ers in emergency situations allows us to act when others
might not. We know that the lack of action on the part
of others cannot be taken as proof that everything is
fine. Future research can examine whether and how
forewarning influences the effectiveness of normative
social influence.
Another interesting result from these studies is what did
not work. Whereas environmental reasons and social
responsibility were rated as strong reasons for conserving
energy in our survey, neither approach succeeded in reduc-
ing energy conservation in our field study. On the surface,
this might appear surprising. Yet, the results are consistent
with a growing body of research on environmental educa-
tion and pro-environmental behavior—appealing to people
to do the right thing, or to protect the environment, rarely
succeeds in increasing levels of pro-environmental behav-
ior (see Schultz, 2002, for a discussion).
But this does not mean that environmental protec-
tion or social responsibility cannot motivate pro-envi-
ronmental behavior, only that messages promoting an
increase in conservation fail to produce behavior
change. It seems plausible that people are already
engaging in conservation efforts for these reasons and
appealing to these motivational bases merely preaches
to the choir. What is needed is an alternative motiva-
tional basis that appeals to a different portion of the
population or an alternative behavior that has not yet
been linked with environmental or social responsibility
(Schultz & Zelezny, 2003). By going beyond environ-
mental protection and social responsibility, normative
messages reach a new population of individuals who
might not otherwise have a reason to conserve.
There is a potential alternative explanation for the
results obtained in Study 2 that warrants discussion. It
is possible that the difference between the descriptive
norm group and the other conditions is the result of
a difference in how the messages were processed.
Specifically, including the term “your community” in
the descriptive norm message may have made this mes-
sage more personally relevant, and therefore more likely
to be centrally processed, compared to the messages in
the other conditions (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986).
Although we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, it
seems unlikely. First, research on majority influence has
shown that presenting consensus information reduces
the degree to which messages are processed systemati-
cally (Erb, Bohner, Schmälzle, & Rank, 1998). Second,
if the messages appeared more personally relevant, then
we might also expect to see that more people attended
to the descriptive norm messages, compared to the other
conditions, which we did not. Third, results similar to
ours were found in a comparable study on recycling
that used common language across conditions (Schultz,
1999). Future research is needed to better understand
the basic question of how normative messages are
processed in a real-world setting as well as the specific
question of whether part of the effectiveness of norma-
tive messages can be attributed to an increase in per-
sonal relevance.
In addition to their important theoretical contribu-
tions, these results have other practical implications as
well. It is common practice for program designers to
conduct focus groups in the process of designing their
behavior change programs. The problem is that asking
people what they think would influence them may not
provide good data on which to base solutions. In fact,
our results suggest that people hold incorrect beliefs
about what motivates them to conserve and may not be
able to predict which strategies will be the most effective.
Taken together, the results from the current studies
show that normative information is a powerful but
underdetected form of social influence. As in previous
studies (e.g., Schultz, 1999), we showed that normative
information was a highly effective way to motivate a
Nolan et al. / UNDERDETECTED INFLUENCE 921
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change in behavior. Also in line with previous research
on nonconscious influences on behavior (e.g., Bowers,
1984; Nisbett & Wilson, 1977), we found that people
were unable to identify the true cause of their behavior.
Although participants in the environment and social
responsibility conditions were most likely to say that
they had been influenced by the persuasive message they
received, their energy consumption did not differ from
the control group, whereas the descriptive norm condi-
tion did differ. These results suggest that people relied
on their a priori theories of what should motivate some-
one to conserve energy. In conclusion, although people
may not believe that the behavior of others should moti-
vate them to conserve energy, their behavior was pow-
erfully influenced by it nonetheless.
APPENDIX
SAMPLE INTERVENTION MESSAGES USED
IN STUDY 2
Descriptive Norm: Join Your Neighbors in Conserving
Energy. Summer is here and most people in your community are
finding ways to conserve energy at home. How are San Marcos
residents like you conserving this summer? By using fans instead
of air conditioning! Why? In a recent survey of households in
your community, researchers at Cal State San Marcos found that
77% of San Marcos residents often use fans instead of air con-
ditioning to keep cool in the summer. Using fans instead of air
conditioning—Your Community’s Popular Choice!
Self-Interest: Save Money by Conserving Energy. Summer
is here and the time is right for saving money on your home
energy bill. How can you save money this summer? By using
fans instead of air conditioning! Why? According to
researchers at Cal State San Marcos, you could save up to $54
per month by using fans instead of air conditioning to keep
cool in the summer.
Environmental Protection: Protect the Environment by
Conserving Energy. Summer is here and the time is right for
reducing greenhouse gases. How can you protect the environ-
ment this summer? By using fans instead of air conditioning!
Why? According to researchers at Cal State San Marcos, you
can prevent the release of up to 262 lbs of greenhouse gases
per month by using fans instead of air conditioning to keep
cool this summer! Using fans instead of air conditioning—The
Environmental Choice.
Social Responsibility: Do Your Part to Conserve Energy for
Future Generations. Summer is here and we need to work
together to conserve energy. How can you conserve energy for
future generations? By using fans instead of air conditioning!
Why? According to researchers at Cal State San Marcos,
you can reduce your monthly demand for electricity by 29%
using fans instead of air conditioning to keep cool this
summer! Using fans instead of air conditioning—The Socially
Responsible Choice.
Information Only: Energy Conservation. Summer is here
and the time is right to conserve energy. How can you
conserve energy this summer? By using fans instead of air
conditioning!
NOTES
1. Households were selected using 1999 and 2000 census data to
represent high, medium, and low ethnic diversity areas with a median
household income ranging from $50,000 to $72,000. High diversity
was defined as an area that was less than 50% White, medium diver-
sity was defined as an area that was between 50.1% to 74.9% White,
and low diversity was defined as an area where more than 75% of the
population was White.
2. Meter readings were only taken from households that had a
publicly visible electricity meter. Electricity meters that were not visi-
ble upon natural egress to the home, or that could not be accessed
because of the presence of a gate or a dog, were not read.
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... To date, researchers have not examined how a variety of social norms can be integrated into messages to motivate individuals' disaster mitigation behaviors. From the broader literature, we know that descriptive norms (i.e., how common and prevalent behaviors are among group members), and injunctive norms (i.e., whether a social group commonly approves or disapproves of behaviors) are two social norms that, when integrated into risk messages, can encourage individuals to engage in behaviors (Goldstein et al., 2007;Nolan et al., 2008). From the literature, we also know that social norms-based fear appeals (e.g., social disapproval rationale in messages about a negative social result of not taking behaviors) can motivate individuals to engage in behaviors (Pechmann et al., 2003;Vermeir et al., 2017). ...
... Descriptive social norms are information about how common and prevalent behaviors are among group members (i.e., what others do) (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). These norms serve as a cognitive shortcut for efficient decision making (Goldstein et al., 2007;Nolan et al., 2008). Injunctive social norms provide information about whether a social group commonly approves or disapproves of behaviors (e.g., what others believe should be done), which helps individuals gain and maintain social approval (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). ...
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Preparing for natural disasters and adapting to climate change can save lives. Yet, minimal research has examined how governments can motivate community members to prepare for disasters (e.g., purchasing flood insurance or installing water barriers in homes for floods and hurricanes). Instead, studies have focused on how to communicate actions individuals should take during disasters, rather than before disasters. This study develops messages targeting social norms, which are promising approaches to motivate community members to adopt disaster risk preparedness and mitigation behaviors. Specifically, we developed a variety of messages integrating descriptive norms (i.e., what others do), injunctive norms (i.e., what others believe should be done), and a social norms-based fear appeal, or social disapproval rationale (i.e., a negative social result of [not] taking behaviors). Then, we tested these messages through two between-subject factorial online experiments in flood- and hurricane-prone U.S. states with adult samples (N = 2,286). In experiment 1 (i.e., purchasing flood insurance), the injunctive norms message using weather forecasters and the social disapproval rationale message significantly increased social norms perceptions, which in turn influenced behavioral intentions. In experiment 2 (i.e., installing water barriers), the injunctive norms message using weather forecasters, the injunctive norms message using neighbors, and the social disapproval rationale message significantly increased social norms perceptions, which in turn influenced mitigation intentions. However, the descriptive social norms message was not effective in increasing social norms perceptions. We provide some of the first empirical evidence on how organizations’ risk communication can empower community members to prepare and mitigate the impact of disasters.
... Natural environment perception Social cognition theory Peng and Zhou, 2001;Liu, 2021 Social environment perception Social cognition theory Craik, 1972;Guo et al., 2015;Wang and Wu, 2015;Ruan, 2020 Personal norm Theory of planned behavior Norm activation theory Value-belief-norm theory Ajzen, 1985;Cialdini et al., 1990;Wang and Wu, 2015;Zhang, 2016 Social norm Theory of planned behavior Ajzen, 1985;Turner et al., 1991;Nolan, 2008 Participation attitude Theory of planned behavior Shaw et al., 2000;Daniel and Klaus, 2022 Result awareness Value-belief-norm theory Schwartz, 1980 Self-efficacy Theory of planned behavior Social cognition theory Bandura, 1977Bandura, , 1982Ajzen, 2002 Participation behavior intention Theory of planned behavior Norm activation theory Schwartz, 1980;Ajzen, 1985 environment can trigger two forms of environmental behavior: the personal form, as reported by Lin et al. (2017); Xiu (2021), and Ying (2021), and the social form, which includes participation in social environmental protection organizations (Armitage and Conner, 2001;Berenguer, 2010). This study follows the aforementioned research, subdividing the PD of villager participation in rural micro-landscape construction into NEP and SEP. ...
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Villager participation has become a key breakthrough in rural landscape governance. Using the theory of planned behavior and the norm activation theory as frameworks, this study adopts the structural equation model to explore the influencing mechanism of villager participation in rural micro-landscapes based on data gathered from 414 villagers in a rural micro-landscape construction survey in Jinjiang, China. The results indicate that (1) integrated planned behavior theory and norm activation theory can better explain the influencing mechanism of villagers’ participation in rural micro-landscape construction; (2) perception, norm, attitude, and control dimensions significantly influence villagers’ participation behavior intention. The attitude dimension had the greatest influence, followed by the normative and control dimensions, while the perception dimension had the least influence on the procedure; and (3) according to the mediation results, natural environment perception, social environment perception, personal norm, social norm, participation attitude, result awareness, and self-efficacy all exert indirect effects on participation behavior based on villagers’ participation behavioral intention. The largest median effect value was result awareness, followed by personal norm, participation attitude, natural environment awareness, self-efficacy, and social norm. This study expands the theoretical framework and research content of planned behavior and clarifies the mechanism of the influencing factors of villagers’ participation in rural micro-landscapes, extending the theory of planned behavior to the research field of villagers’ participation, which has a guiding role in promoting the co-construction, co-governance, and sharing of rural landscapes.
... We also theorise that value orientations may play a role in motivating experiences of nature through their influence on social norms, as values have been shown to shape social norms and behavioural decisions (Stern et al., 1999;Nolan et al., 2008). Values refer to universal, general, and desirable goals that guide our everyday preferences and actions (Bouman and Steg, 2019). ...
... Ration-based and socialization-based routes are two main routes encouraging individuals' behaviors, including responsible tourism behavior [36]. is current study combines the ration-based and socialization-based routes by establishing an extensive socialized model of UTAUT. ...
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Motivating tourists’ responsible behaviors during their trip has emerged as an essential yet insufficient investigated topic in sustainable tourism research. Ration-based and socialization-based motivators have to be integrated to address the lack of a holistic antecedent framework of responsible tourism behavior. Thus, this study extended the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) into responsible tourism behavior learning and combined the theory of social influence to establish an extensive socialized model of UTAUT to explain tourists’ adoption of responsible behavior behaviors. This model includes three tourism elements—sustainable benefits, sustainable facility accessibility, social interaction engagement as antecedents, and two types of mediators: ration-based mediators of performance expectation and effort expectation and socialization-based mediators of informative influence and normative influence. 491 Chinese tourists were surveyed to confirm this model. It is found that all four mediators explain tourists’ responsible behaviors. Moreover, sustainable benefits positively influence tourists’ performance and effort expectation and social interaction engagement positively influences informative and normative influences, while sustainable facility accessibility positively leads to effort expectation and normative influence.
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Despite efforts to create dedicated smoking areas and no‐smoking signs, many smokers continue to light their cigarettes in front of public building entrances—leading to concerns over health consequences for non‐smokers passing by. To increase compliance with no‐smoking requests, behavioral interventions that tap into habitual and automatic processes seem promising. A pseudo‐randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the differential impact of seven behavioral interventions based on Cialdini's principles of persuasion. Over a period of 9 weeks, the number of smokers was counted (total n = 17,930 observations) in front of a German University Medical Center. Relative to a baseline and a control condition, interventions based on the principles of reciprocity, scarcity, and authority were most effective in reducing the number of observed smokers in front of the building entrance (41.5%, 45.7%, and 52.1% reduction rates, respectively). Having observed smokers' behavior in vivo, this study provides substantial evidence for the impact of persuasive strategies on outdoor smoking. In the future, this knowledge should be used to protect non‐smokers from second‐hand smoke by increasing the use of designated smoking areas, leave to another place to smoke, or not smoke at all.
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Population expansion and the depletion of the planet’s natural resources make it necessary to look at human consumption behavior in sustainable development. The purpose of this study is to investigate the influence factors, the influence paths, and the decision-making mechanisms of Chinese consumers’ sustainable consumption behavior through the TPB–ABC integration theory. Based on survey data from 534 consumers in Dongying, China, this study used the partial least squares structural equation model (PLS-SEM) to analyze the main factors that influence the three sections of sustainable consumption behaviors, which are green purchase behavior, green transportation behavior, and recycling and resource conservation behavior. Decision-making mechanisms are discussed concerning impact pathways. The results prove that three internal motivations and two external contexts are intimately linked to customers’ behavioral decisions, with external contexts indirectly shaping individual attitudes. Furthermore, the factors that influence various types of sustainable consumption practices differ. Specifically, green purchase behavior and green transportation behavior are mainly influenced by attitude variables, and negative contexts mainly influence recycling and resource conservation behavior. Finally, the study suggested corresponding policy recommendations to promote sustainable consumption.
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Drivers who do not give way to pedestrians are among the main causes of traffic crashes of motor vehicles and pedestrians in China. There is an urgent need to explore effective methods for improving drivers' yielding behaviour. This study used eight kinds of social norm slogans to nudge drivers’ yielding behaviour and explored the influence of pedestrian characteristics and situational factors on drivers’ decision-making regarding giving way when turning right. By analysing 254 valid questionnaires, it was found that compared with static norms, injunctive norms and dynamic + static norms, positively worded dynamic norms have a better nudging effect on drivers' yielding behaviour. The results of the conjoint analysis showed that social norms have the greatest impact on drivers' decisions to yield (32.28%), followed by whether pedestrians comply with traffic rules (23.33%) and the age of pedestrians (18.40%). This study expands the application of social norms and provides a new perspective to promote positive behaviour among drivers.
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This working paper summarizes the methodology and results from two original randomized controlled trials that reached more than 40 million consumers in order to assess the impact of social norms messaging on consumers’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors around food waste. It finds that making food waste socially unacceptable through the right type of messaging can elevate the importance of this issue in consumers’ lives. While social norms messages, by themselves, are not a panacea for eliminating consumer food waste, they can contribute to significant reductions in waste when included in multicomponent interventions. The paper provides 10 insights that can be incorporated into campaigns led by nongovernmental organizations, local and national governments, and businesses aiming to help reduce household food waste.
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This field experiment increased the frequency of curbside recycling among community residents using feedback interventions that targeted personal and social norms. My team of researchers observed curbside recycling behaviors of 605 residents of single-family dwellings for 17 weeks. Groups of contiguous houses were randomly assigned to 1 of 5 experimental conditions: plea, plea plus information, plea plus neighborhood feedback, plea plus individual household feedback, or the control condition. Interventions were implemented using door hangers delivered to each household over a 4-week period. Results showed significant increases from baseline in the frequency of participation and total amount of recycled material for the individual (i.e., personal norm) and the group feedback (i.e., descriptive norm) interventions. None of the interventions altered the amount of contamination observed. These findings are interpreted as consistent with recent research on personal and social norms and suggest a link between behavior change produced through norm activation and behavior change produced through feedback. Implications for research and public policy are discussed.
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Prior research has explored the relationship between values, attitudes about environmental issues, and pro-environmental behavior. These studies have shown a consistent pattern of results - individuals who value self-transcendent life goals tend to care more about environmental problems, favor environmental protection over economic growth, and engage in more proenvironmental behavior. In contrast, individuals who value self-enhancing life goals tend to hold more egoistic concerns about environmental issues, tend to favor economic growth over environmental protection, and tend to engage in fewer environmental behaviors. Research on American values suggests that overall, people in the U.S. tend to hold strong self-enhancing values. These self-enhancing values have largely been considered incongruous with the values that lead to environmental concern and to environmental behavior. In this paper, we synthesize the past research on the relationship between values and environmental behavior. Lessons from the Biodiversity Project are used to illustrate efforts to create effective value-based environmental messages.
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Staged 2 different videotaped interviews with the same individual--a college instructor who spoke English with a European accent. In one of the interviews the instructor was warm and friendly, in the other, cold and distant. 118 undergraduates were asked to evaluate the instructor. Ss who saw the warm instructor rated his appearance, mannerisms, and accent as appealing, whereas those who saw the cold instructor rated these attributes as irritating. Results indicate that global evaluations of a person can induce altered evaluations of the person's attributes, even when there is sufficient information to allow for independent assessments of them. Furthermore, Ss were unaware of this influence of global evaluations on ratings of attributes. In fact, Ss who saw the cold instructor actually believed that the direction of influence was opposite to the true direction. They reported that their dislike of the instructor had no effect on their rating of his attributes but that their dislike of his attributes had lowered their global evaluations of him. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
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The chameleon effect refers to nonconscious mimicry of the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one's interaction partners, such that one's behavior passively rind unintentionally changes to match that of others in one's current social environment. The authors suggest that the mechanism involved is the perception-behavior link, the recently documented finding (e.g., J. A. Bargh, M. Chen, & L. Burrows, 1996) that the mere perception of another' s behavior automatically increases the likelihood of engaging in that behavior oneself Experiment 1 showed that the motor behavior of participants unintentionally matched that of strangers with whom they worked on a task. Experiment 2 had confederates mimic the posture and movements of participants and showed that mimicry facilitates the smoothness of interactions and increases liking between interaction partners. Experiment 3 showed that dispositionally empathic individuals exhibit the chameleon effect to a greater extent than do other people.
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A meta-analysis of single-item measures of overall job satisfaction (28 correlations from 17 studies with 7,682 people) found an average uncorrected correlation of .63 (SD = .09) with scale measures of overall job satisfaction. The overall mean correlation (corrected only for reliability) is .67 (SD = .08), and it is moderated by the type of measurement scale used. The mean corrected correlation for the best group of scale measures (8 correlations, 1,735 people) is .72 (SD = .05). The correction for attenuation formula was used to estimate the minimum level of reliability for a single-item measure. These estimates range from .45 to .69, depending on the assumptions made.