The Transsituational Influence of Social Norms

Reno, R. R., Cialdini, R. B. & Kallgren, C. A. (1993). The transsituational influence of social norms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 1, 104-112.

Three studies examined the behavioral implications of a conceptual distinction between 2 types of social norms: descriptive norms, which specify what is typically done in a given setting, and injunctive norms, which specify what is typically approved in society. Using the social norm against littering, injunctive norm salience procedures were more robust in their behavioral impact across situations than were descriptive norm salience procedures. Focusing Ss on the injunctive norm suppressed littering regardless of whether the environment was clean or littered (Study 1) and regardless of whether the environment in which Ss could litter was the same as or different from that in which the norm was evoked (Studies 2 and 3). The impact of focusing Ss on the descriptive norm was much less general. Conceptual implications for a focus theory of normative conduct are discussed along with practical implications for increasing socially desirable behavior.

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