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Psychol Sci. 2017 Nov;28(11):1663-1674. doi: 10.1177/0956797617719950. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

Dynamic Norms Promote Sustainable Behavior, Even if It Is Counternormative.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University.


It is well known that people conform to normative information about other people's current attitudes and behaviors. Do they also conform to dynamic norms-information about how other people's behavior is changing over time? We investigated this question in three online and two field experiments. Experiments 1 through 4 examined high levels of meat consumption, a normative and salient behavior that is decreasing in the United States. Dynamic norms motivated change despite prevailing static norms, increasing interest in eating less meat (Experiments 1-3) and doubling meatless orders at a café (Experiment 4). Mediators included the anticipation of less meat eating in the future ( preconformity) and the inference that reducing meat consumption mattered to other people (Experiments 2 and 3). In Experiment 5, we took advantage of a natural comparison to provide evidence that dynamic norms can also strengthen social-norm interventions when the static norm is positive; a positive dynamic norm resulted in reduced laundry loads and water use over 3 weeks during a drought.


health; intervention; motivation; open materials; social influences; sustainability

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