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date: 12 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter social norms are redefined as “rules and standards that are understood by members of a group, and that guide morally relevant social behavior by way of social sanctions, instead of the force of laws.” In line with this revised definition, the chapter includes a discussion of how and when individuals enforce social norms along with the customary review of the literature on social norms as agents of social influence. A discussion of how to maximize the impact of social norms interventions follows with special consideration given to (a) combining descriptive and injunctive norms, (b) reference groups, (c) personal relevance, and (d) cognitive resources. The chapter also includes a discussion of the tendency to underestimate the influence of social norms, both on one’s own behavior and the behavior of others. Several conflicting results are identified and suggestions are made for how to resolve them with future research.

Keywords: Social norms, social sanctions, enforcement, social norms marketing, focus theory, conformity

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