Norms & Behavioral Change Workshop
We host a two-day workshop that brings together researchers studying the relationship between social norms and behavioral change. This includes, but is not limited to, experimental, empirical, and theoretical research investigating the formation, change, and abolishment of norms and their role in affecting and being affected by individual and collective behavior. Our goal is to advance knowledge in this interdisciplinary area of research. Speakers include both early-career and senior researchers from economics, psychology, and adjacent fields.
The RISE Research Award 2020
The RISE (Researching Injustice and Social Equality) Award seeks to cultivate psychological science research in fields related to socially and economically under-represented populations, and recognize outstanding student researchers from diverse racial, ethnic, geographic and cultural backgrounds, as well as other underrepresented groups in psychological science. Our research, “The Critical Role of Trendsetters in Inspiring Behavior Change at Scale: Evidence from India’s Sanitation Campaign” has been selected as a “Winner” of the 2020 RISE Research Award. It received high ratings by our volunteer reviewers, in addition to reflecting the goals of the RISE Award and contributing something novel to our respective research area.
Podcast, Interviews and Press
Cristina Bicchieri, Director of the Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics at Penn discusses her research on norms & COVID-19 in this New York Times Magazine article. “To create a new norm,” Bicchieri says, “you need to build this sense that other people are following the rules.” Bicchieri adds, whether respondents trusted science also had a major effect on their willingness to follow health guidance, regardless of what they believed about their peers.
Online Article / December 10, 2020
Cristina Bicchieri, Penn Professor of Philosophy and Psychology and Wharton Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics, joins Wharton Business Daily host Dan Loney to discuss new social norms resulting from COVID-19 on this episode of SiriusXM radio show.
Online Podcast / November 17, 2020
Our Longitudinal Evaluation of Norms and Networks (LENNS) study is seeking to shift norms to increase toilet usage in peri urban communities in India. Learn more about how our evidence based, theory-driven behavior change strategy is being implemented through this video.
Research from the Center for Social Norms & Behavioral Dynamics finds that people who feel independent think that most others are, too. They also underestimate the level of poverty in the United States. “There has been a lot of research done on freedom and economic inequality, but I thought it was important to analyze the perceptions that people have about their own freedom and autonomy,” says Cristina Bicchieri, the S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics, who studies judgement, decision-making, and social norms. In collaboration with Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Barbara Mellers, Abraham Aldama, a postdoctoral researcher in Penn’s Center for Social Norms & Behavioral Dynamics, and colleagues from the University of Fribourg and the University of Oregon, Bicchieri created a two-part survey. “When people think they are in control, they also tend to think that economic results depend on their own actions rather than luck or someone else’s actions,” Aldama adds. “This then tends to make people believe that whatever inequality exists is fair. In other words, if you’re poor it’s because you didn’t put in enough effort.” Read the full story by clicking the button below.
Online Article / January 15, 2020
The latest story from OMNIA, the Penn Arts and Sciences magazine, highlights Cristina Bicchieri and Enrique Fatas’ research on how new social norms have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly norms like social distancing and mask-wearing. “We decided to do a study in nine different countries, which included Mexico, Colombia, China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.,” says Bicchieri, Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics. Bicchieri and Fatas found that for people to modify behavior, it’s first necessary to change their expectations about how others that matter to them act and think. “Public information and the media may change people’s expectations about what others do and what others believe is appropriate to do,” Bicchieri says. But new expectations alone aren’t enough; they need to cause people to want to change their behavior. Read the full story here.
Online Article / October 21, 2020
Inspire Series Interview: How trendsetters and soap operas can help us change child feeding behaviors?
What do soap operas have to do with child feeding behaviors? The latest post in the #Inspire4SBC series, from AliveandThrive, takes an innovative look at improving nutrition by changing social norms, using creative strategies like identifying community trendsetters and weaving messages into the plot of soap operas! Since its inception more than a decade ago, Alive & Thrive has aimed to motivate changes in maternal, infant and young child nutrition (MIYCN) social norms and behaviors. Social norms are the implicit or explicit rules that govern behaviors within a group. Especially now, there is increased focus on new and interesting ideas to drive social and behavior change but many have been underutilized to address nutrition challenges. Inspire seeks to bridge that gap. A variety of factors influence what mothers and caregivers choose to feed their infant children – which partly explains why changing complementary feeding behaviors is so challenging. In this interview, Bicchieri discusses how understanding how social norms shape behaviors can help us figure out how to change those behaviors and how Trendsetters and soap operas can help change social norms that influence child feeding behaviors. Curious? Read the full interview here.
Interview / July 7, 2020
The Harvard Decision Science Laboratory studies how people make judgments and decisions (building on insights from economics, psychology, and neuroscience) and identifies strategies that help people, organizations, and society improve decision making approaches and structures. Their latest Behavioral Science talk series recently featured a virtual talk, Norms, Trust and Compliance with Public Health Measures, by Professor Cristina Bicchieri from the University of Pennsylvania. In this talk, she presented for the first time new evidence on behavior during COVID-19 from 9 countries: Italy, Spain, Germany, England, China, S. Korea, Mexico, Colombia, and the US.
Online Video / September 9, 2020
In this joint Busara and IBEN Webinar Series, speakers discuss psychological factors affecting the success of measures to decrease the spread of Covid-19. The use of descriptive social norms is probably one of the most overused as well as often misused psychological levers that people use without understanding implications on consequences. In this third episode of the Webinar Series, Cristina Bicchieri, Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics discusses the importance of understanding social norms during the current COVID Pandemic and its significance, beyond.
Online Video / June 18, 2020
Every spring and fall, Penn Arts and Sciences faculty take a minute out by the Ben Franklin statue in front of College Hall to share their perspectives on topics ranging from human history and the knowable universe to fractions and fly-fishing. This semester, 60-Second Lectures go digital as we seek to understand this difficult and unique moment in time. A wide variety of scholars and experts will shed light on the pandemic, including the science; the complex social, cultural, historical, and economic issues; and the response here on campus. Cristina Bicchieri, Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics discusses the concept of “Norm-Nudging” in this video.
Online Video / April 8, 2020
The New York Times Article
For his opinion piece, Thomas B. Edsall, spoke by phone with Cristina Bicchieri, a professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. In this opinion piece in the New York Times, Bicchieri shares her thoughts on Trump & his re-election campaign. One of Trump’s strengths, Bicchieri said, grows out of the fact that “people hate ambiguity,” and if there is one thing Trump is not, it’s ambiguous. Trump’s ability to convey conviction, even when saying things that are demonstrably false, is critically important in persuading supporters to believe and vote for him. “He is always sure of what he says, when he sends a message, he is always sure,” Bicchieri noted. He may change his mind and say “things are black one day and they are white” the next day, but on both days “he will have the same strength of conviction.” In an email, Bicchieri cited research that shows “political conservatism being negatively correlated with tolerance to uncertainty.” This supports, she said, “the general notion that conservative voters would enjoy Trump’s simple and ‘certain’ declarations about the world.”
Online Article / May 13, 2020
Delhi Post Article
This article in Delhi Post by Sania Ashraf – an epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania and a Research Specialist at the Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics – talks about several sanitation-related aspects that need attention when directing COVID-19 preventive measures in the coming weeks and months. “There are no guidelines based on faecal–oral transmission of COVID-19 virus, and rightfully so given the lack of evidence to support this transmission pathway. However, given the increased risk of open defecation in public spaces in India, further research should focus on understanding this risk”, says Sania Ashraf. Her research uses community health workers to improve health and WASH conditions in India. She further notes, “any robust inclusive COVID-19 control strategy in urban India and low-income communities should include enhanced sanitation facility management and messages to promote safe usage.”
Online Article / April 27, 2020
Behavioral Grooves Podcast
This podcast focuses on applying behavioral science insights to work and life where the hosts talk with interesting guests to explore “why we do what we do!”. In this podcast the hosts talk to businesses and nonprofit leaders about how they apply behavioral science to work to make their businesses more effective. The podcast also shares insights from behavioral science researchers from a wide variety of cross-disciplinary fields. This episode features Dr. Cristina Bicchieri, the faculty director of the Master of Behavioral and Decision Science Program at UPenn. Cristina’s observations are based on a lifetime of excellent research and writing and this podcast provides insights on social norms and reference networks. The discussion with Cristina also offers useful tips for all of the corporate and customer-focused messaging.
Podcast / April 11, 2020
Delhi Post Article
This article in Delhi Post by Sania Ashraf – an epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania and a Research Specialist at the Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics – talks about the role of Frontline health workers, Anganwadi and sanitation workers and how with innovative tools and approaches, they can amplify the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Sania’s research uses community health workers to improve health and WASH conditions in India. “As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak spreads through the country, fears about morbidity and mortality will consequently escalate in communities”, says Sania Ashraf. She further notes, “as India considers its COVID-19 containment plan, tapping into the massive pool of on-the-ground healthcare, workers will allow timely dissemination of useful messages.”
Online Article / April 01, 2020
Behavioral Grooves Podcast
The Behavioral Grooves podcast shares insights from behavioral science researchers from a wide variety of cross-disciplinary fields and in this episode the hosts speak with Eugent Dimant, an Associate Professor of Practice in Behavioral and Decision Sciences, which is part of the new Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics under Cristina Bicchieri, Ph.D.’s leadership at the University of Pennsylvania. This podcast focuses on how social norms drive individual behaviors in different ways and how research on coronavirus-related behaviors is being completed at record speeds – but not necessarily all in good ways. Eugen Dimant recommends slowing down, working across disciplines, and being clear on research objectives to insure test methods and data collection conform to the highest standards and deliver the most meaningful results.
Podcast / March 31, 2020
“Social distancing is not just for the sick, but for each and every person, including you and even your family,” Modi said in a nationwide address last week. In this CNN article, Sania Ashraf, a research specialist who works on water, sanitation, hygiene and respiratory illness, at the Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania, said the “Clean India Mission had increased private toilets as well as community or pay-per-use public toilet coverage — but during a pandemic, having access to a shared toilet means little if it is not clean.” Furthermore, poor ventilation can trap contaminated aerosols and “facilitate transmission of the virus,” Ashraf adds further. This is especially worrying in light of evidence that patients shed the virus through feces, raising the possibility of transmission in communal toilets and places where there is still open defecation.
Online Article / March 30, 2020
Behavioral Grooves Podcast
This podcast focuses on applying behavioral science insights to work and life where the hosts talk with interesting guests to explore “why we do what we do!”. In this podcast the hosts talk to businesses and nonprofit leaders about how they apply behavioral science to work to make their businesses more effective. The podcast also shares insights from behavioral science researchers from a wide variety of cross-disciplinary fields and in this episode the hosts mix both and are initiating their discussions with professors from the NoBeC Conference at the University of Pennsylvania that they recently attended. This podcast features Dr. Cristina Bicchieri, the faculty director of the Master of Behavioral and Decision Science Program at UPenn, who the hosts sat down with in the Kislak Center at UPenn in order to discuss this terrific master’s degree for practitioners.
Podcast / December 8, 2019
Knowledge @ Wharton Article
A team of researchers at Penn’s Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics, led by Cristina Bicchieri, investigated the role of trendsetters and change agents in the growth of Swachh Bharat Mission, the Indian government’s largest sanitation program to date. With the use of qualitative interviews, they point to several personal, social and organizational factors that have supported its growth in this Knowledge@Wharton article. The authors conclude, “as governments and other large organizations appreciate the role of behavioral forces in enacting social change, they may gain critical insights from the methods of the Swachh Bharat Mission, especially the tools that were adopted to achieve meaningful coordination and cooperation.”
Online Article / September 20, 2019
KickBack - The Global Anticorruption Podcast
The podcast this week features Cristina Bicchieri – the S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics at University of Pennsylvania. This Kickback interview kicks off with Cristina’s early work on corruption and describes why corruption is often so “sticky”. Cristina outlines the importance of measurement to provide empirical support for her theoretical concepts, especially the distinction between unconditional versus conditional behavior and empirical versus normative expectations (for more info on this we highly recommend her newest book: Norms in the Wild). She describes how cleverly designed vignette studies help researchers to understand why a certain behavior persists.
Podcast / September 02, 2019
Dope Magazine Article
“The internet gives you an enormous ability of getting information, even if it is completely crazy, that confirms what you’ve decided to believe,” Bicchieri says. “So, the reference network will become all people who hold those beliefs and will villainize the people with different opinions.” When enough trendsetters visibly abandon a social norm without suffering consequences, others in their reference network adjust their expectations of social stigma and gradually follow suit, leading to a tipping point of behavioral change throughout the community. The issue then, Bicchieri says, “is to create a culture of openness,” that encourages trendsetters and diminishes the backlash they receive.
Online Article / June 6, 2019
Paper in Public Choice (2019)
Recent years have seen the rise of `norm-nudges’ – nudges whose mechanism of action relies on social norms, providing or eliciting social expectations. Norm-nudges can be powerful interventions, but they can easily fail to be effective and can even backfire unless they are designed with care. Eugen Dimant and Cristina Bicchieri highlight important considerations when designing norm-nudges and discuss a general model of social behavior based on expectations and conditional preferences. They further present the results of several experiments where norm-nudging can backfire, and ways to avoid these negative outcomes.
Paper / January 20, 2019
Amid the recent widespread allegations of sexual harassment, an article in the Economist explores what it takes to create lasting social change. Cristina Bicchieri, a philosopher at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Norms in the Wild”, a book about social rules, has a warning: ‘Don’t expect the birth of a new norm to be easy.’
Magazine Interview / Dec 19, 2017
World Humanitarian Day: Interview with Coursera
“In recognition of World Humanitarian Day, we chatted with Dr. Cristina Bicchieri, the S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania. In partnership with UNICEF, she teaches Social Norms, Social Change I and II on Coursera. Professor Bicchieri’s two-part course contains theoretical and practical content alongside interviews with UNICEF aid workers and their firsthand experiences using her teachings in the field.”
Print Interview / Aug 19, 2017
Knowedge @ Wharton Podcast
“Problems that surface within an organization are rarely clear-cut, says Cristina Bicchieri, a philosophy professor at the University of Pennsylvania who also teaches in Wharton’s legal studies and business ethics department. “It’s very rare that you observe something that is really bad and somebody does it in front of you.” With limited information, people may question their own understanding of a problem. “You hesitate…. It’s normal,” she says. “You cannot ask people to be super-moral, superhuman. You have to work with what you have.”
Podcast / Dec 20, 2011