Writing for WARC, in the second of a two-part article on social norms (see also this Tuesday’s story Make social norms messaging more powerful), Crawford Hollingworth and Liz Barker of The Behavioural Architects, explore how this field is moving beyond ‘static norms’ to ‘dynamic norms’.
If the former is what the majority of people already do, the latter looks instead at what behaviours are changing and how messages might be framed around that.
In a topical example, US researchers attempted to get people to eat less meat by showing two groups two different statements.
The first simply stated that “30% of Americans make an effort to limit their meat consumption” and so eat less meat than they otherwise would. The second stressed how behaviours have been changing over time: “… in the last five years, 30% of Americans have now started to make an effort to limit their meat consumption.”
The latter group subsequently reported that they were less interested in eating meat. And when the experiment was re-run in the context of a university campus café, those who had read the dynamic statement were significantly more likely to order a meatless meal (34%) than those who read the static norm statement (17%).
“These new results suggest that when trying to encourage a certain behaviour by leveraging social norms, the behaviour does not necessarily have to be the most common or commonly accepted behaviour,” the authors note.
“Instead, simply informing people that the norm is beginning to change and that others are beginning to act differently can be enough to encourage people to perform a certain behaviour (or stop performing an unwanted behaviour), as they conform to the perceived future norm.”
It’s an area that’s ripe for further research, say Hollingworth and Barker, who add there is a need to “understand how norms information operates in more domains”. Many studies around norms are focused on areas like health – specific consumer behaviour studies are few and far between.
Sourced from WARC