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The Use of Descriptive Norms in Public Administration: A Panacea for Improving Citizen Behaviours?

28 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2014  

Peter John

University College London - School of Public Policy

Michael Sanders

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team

Jennifer Wang

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team

Date Written: October 24, 2014

Abstract

Recent years have seen a growth in the use of social norm messages by local and national governments. These messages have been primarily used to induce desired behaviours among the non-compliant minority by pointing to the compliance of the majority. As well as being of considerable theoretical interest, these messages have an unusually high level of empirical and experimental support in government settings. In this paper, we review many of these applied experiments in a bid to understand the workings of social norm messages and, just as importantly, where they do not work as well. We also discuss why this kind of intervention has attracted such an unusually large body of experimental evidence.

Keywords: social norms, experiments

Suggested Citation

John, Peter and Sanders, Michael and Wang, Jennifer, The Use of Descriptive Norms in Public Administration: A Panacea for Improving Citizen Behaviours? (October 24, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2514536

Peter John (Contact Author)

University College London - School of Public Policy ( email )

29/30 Tavistock Square
London, WC1H 9QU
United Kingdom

Michael Sanders

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

Jennifer Wang

Cabinet Office (UK) - Behavioural Insights Team ( email )

London, SW1A 2AS
United Kingdom

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