The Mediated Influences of Perceived Norms on Pro-Environmental Behavior
Revue d'économie politique, Vol. 124, pp. 179-193, 2014
Posted: 17 Jun 2015
Date Written: 2014
Research on the influence of social norms on pro-environmental behavior often reaches very different conclusions depending on whether the research is experimental or survey based. I propose that the main reason is that survey-based research applying popular social cognitive theories often underestimates the influence of social norms due to various errors of omission. In this article, I particularly focus on a too narrow conception of the process through which perceived social norms influence decisionmaking (i.e., intention formation) and behavior. Research suggesting a number of different paths through which perceived social norms influence behavior is reviewed, followed by a reanalysis of previously published data sets from research on proenvironmental and other types of behavior to test hypotheses derived from this literature.
The results confirm that survey studies that include perceived social norms as one among several antecedents of pro-environmental intentions and behavior usually dramatically underestimate the influence of norms. It is concluded that studies on the relative impact of social and other antecedents of behavior should avoid oversimplifications and build their models on a theoretically sophisticated understanding of how norms influence behavior.
Keywords: Descriptive norms, injunctive norms, mediation analysis, pro-environmental behavior, social norms
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