The Source is the Message: The Impact of Institutional Signals on Climate Change-Related Norm Perceptions and Behaviors

Constantino, S.M., Pianta, S., Rinscheid, A., Frey, R., Weber, E.U. The source is the message: the impact of institutional signals on climate change–related norm perceptions and behaviors. Climatic Change 166, 35 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-021-03095-z

18 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2021

See all articles by Sara Constantino

Sara Constantino

Princeton University - Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Students

Silvia Pianta

Bocconi University; RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment

Adrian Rinscheid

University of St. Gallen

Renato Frey

University of Basel

Elke U. Weber

Princeton University - Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Date Written: June 17, 2020

Abstract

With mandates and taxes to mitigate climate change proving politically challenging to implement, some scholars and policy makers have started looking to social norms as a vehicle for large-scale behavioral change. This raises the question of whether formal institutions or organizations are able to influence social norms and behavior. We designed a randomized experiment with a sample of 3,627 American residents to investigate how social norm perceptions and behaviors change in response to institutional signals about climate change, and how this varies with signal source. We found that institutional signals, in particular when originating from science or business actors, shifted perceptions of descriptive social norms about climate action. Institutional signals also influenced intended pro-environmental behaviors, but did not increase personal contributions to environmental causes, suggesting that a shift in perceived norms may be insufficient to drive personal action, especially when it involves personal costs. Our study emphasizes the importance of institutional signals and messengers in changing perceptions of social norms, but also highlights the complexities involved in norm interventions ultimately aimed at influencing behavior.

Keywords: Social norms, social influence, climate change, environment, policy, institutions, preregistered

JEL Classification: Q50, Q54, Q58

Suggested Citation

Constantino, Sara and Pianta, Silvia and Rinscheid, Adrian and Frey, Renato and Weber, Elke U., The Source is the Message: The Impact of Institutional Signals on Climate Change-Related Norm Perceptions and Behaviors (June 17, 2020). Constantino, S.M., Pianta, S., Rinscheid, A., Frey, R., Weber, E.U. The source is the message: the impact of institutional signals on climate change–related norm perceptions and behaviors. Climatic Change 166, 35 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-021-03095-z, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3889279

Sara Constantino

Princeton University - Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Students ( email )

NJ
United States

Silvia Pianta

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment ( email )

Via Bergognone, 34
Milan, 20144
Italy

Adrian Rinscheid (Contact Author)

University of St. Gallen ( email )

Bodanstrasse 8
SIAW-HSG
St.Gallen, 9000
Switzerland

Renato Frey

University of Basel ( email )

Petersplatz 1
Basel, CH-4003
Switzerland

Elke U. Weber

Princeton University - Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

86 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

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