Norm abandonment

Summary of Week 3 of Social Norms, Social Change II (Coursera – University of Pennsylvania & UNICEF)

For change to occur, having shared reasons that are independent of social expectations is a necessary precondition. This is accompanied by a change of personal normative beliefs. Reasons why a norm is accepted includes: (1) people not seeing the norm as a problem; (2) people may not know that there are alternatives, and; (3) due to pluralistic ignorance. Interventions to change beliefs must be suitable to the underlying causes.

However, deviating from the norm invites negative consequences, thus people will not act alone. This implies that there must be a collective change of expectation, and a coordinated change in behaviour.

Tools for change include media, legislative interventions, economic incentives, educational campaigns and group deliberations. All the tools make people aware that they are being exposed to the same message, but collective discussions has several advantages. During the discussion, the general acceptance of certain arguments becomes visible. It helps to change our personal normative and factual beliefs and to observe that other beliefs are changing too.


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