Behavioral Sciences Workshop: Betsy Levy Paluck (Princeton University), “Changing Social Norms and Behavior”

Event time: 
Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 4:35pm through 5:50pm
Event description: 

“Changing Social Norms and Behaviors”

Betsy Levy Paluck, Associate Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Abstract: How can we change social norms, the standards describing typical or desirable behavior?  Because individuals’ perceptions of norms guide their personal behavior, influencing these perceptions is one way to create social change. And yet individuals do not form perceptions of typical or desirable behavior in an unbiased manner. Individuals tend to select sources of normative information, and their resulting perceptions rarely match actual rates of behavior in their environment. Thus, changing social norms requires an understanding of how individuals perceive norms in the first place. Following Tankard & Paluck (2015), I describe three sources of information that people use to understand norms—individual behavior, summary information about a group, and institutional signals. Social change interventions have used each source to influence perceived norms and behaviors, including energy usage, post-conflict reconciliation, and school bullying and violence. I discuss conditions under which influence over perceived norms is likely to be stronger, based on the source of the normative information and individuals’ relationship to the source. Finally, I point to future research and suggest when it is most appropriate to use a norm change strategy in the interest of behavior and social change.

Speaker Bio: Elizabeth Levy Paluck is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Her research is concerned with social norms and behavior change. Much of her work tests these ideas in interventions aimed at the reduction of prejudice and conflict, including ethnic and political conflict, youth conflict in schools, and violence against women. She uses large-scale field experiments to test interventions that target individuals’ perceived norms and behavior about conflict and tolerance, including mass media and peer-to-peer interventions.

The Behavioral Sciences Workshop is an interdisciplinary seminar series featuring speakers of broad appeal in the behavioral sciences, and is held jointly between the Yale departments of Economics, Political Science, Psychology, and the School of Management.  The ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics sponsors the workshop.

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