Engineering social change using social norms: lessons from the study of collective action

Curr Opin Psychol. 2020 Oct:35:138-142. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2020.06.012. Epub 2020 Jul 1.


Behavioral interventions have embraced social norms as information that can be communicated in simple messages to motivate behavior change. This article argues for the value and necessity of recognizing that social-norm interventions are grounded in group processes. This approach has three major benefits that more than offset the costs of its greater theoretical and practical complexity. One, it improves the effectiveness of existing interventions, including those that target the normative beliefs of individuals. Two, it opens up new intervention strategies that broaden the range of mechanisms used to change behavior. Three, it connects research on social-norm interventions with theories and research on rallies, rebellions, riots, and other forms of collective action.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Social Change*
  • Social Norms*