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
Date Written: June 17, 2020
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: Suggested Citation