Faculty Summer Research: Social Norms Marketing

    May 31, 2018

    Jessica Nolan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the psychology department, received a summer grant to research social norms marketing. Read on to find out more! 

    Tell us what you plan to work on this summer.

    This summer I will write an invited book chapter for the "Handbook of Wise Interventions: How Social-Psychological Insights Can Help Solve Problems."  The working title of my chapter is: “Social Norms Marketing: A Wise Intervention for Solving Social and Environmental Problems."  The handbook is being published by Guilford so the audience will be both academics and practitioners. 

    What led you to this project?

    I started researching social norms as a master's student at California State University, San Marcos. My thesis advisor, P. Wesley Schultz, was collaborating with Bob Cialdiini at Arizona State University and they had recently received a large grant from the Hewlett Packard Foundation. For my master's thesis, we used this funding to explore how social norms marketing could be used to decrease home energy consumption.

    We published two papers from this data that have received widespread attention. The first paper showed that providing households with information about how their energy consumption compared to their neighbors could have the perverse effect of increasing consumption among low-consuming households but that this boomerang effect could be prevented by expressing social approval for their below-average consumption. The second paper showed that providing information about the energy conserving behavior of neighbors was more effective at decreasing energy consumption than traditional appeals to save money, save the environment or protect our children's future. 

    Results also showed that the effect of this normative information was underdetected. Because of this and subsequent research, my co-authors and I were invited to write this chapter. 

    Do you think it will inform your work at Scranton? How?

    I have no doubt that writing this book chapter will inform my work at Scranton in two ways. First, reviewing and synthesizing the most recent research in the area of social norms is likely to inspire new research questions. Second, writing the chapter will provide me with additional examples and connections in three of the courses I teach where I cover the concept of social norms: PSYC 220: Social Psychology, PSYC 236: Environmental and Conservation Psychology, and PSYC 364: Psychology of Diversity. 

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