Vinnell LJ, Milfont TL, McClure J. 2019. Do social norms affect support for earthquake-strengthening legislation? Comparing the effects of descriptive and injunctive norms. Environment and Behavior. 51(4):376-400. doi:10.1177/0013916517752435.
The pressure to conform with others is often called social norms. Social norms that encourage positive changes in behaviour have been successfully applied in health promotion and environmental conservation. However, their potential for encouraging natural hazard preparation is relatively untested. This research examines whether focusing individuals on norms increases their support for earthquake-strengthening legislation in a seismically active city: Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. There are two different kinds of social norms. The injunctive norm is based on expectations and understood rules, such as whispering in a library. The descriptive norm is more about peer pressure, such as rising to your feet and clapping at the end of a concert. In a large community sample, the injunctive norm condition increased support for legislation compared with the control, whereas the descriptive norm condition did not. However, the descriptive norm condition raised opinions of the feasibility of strengthening work compared with the control, whereas the injunctive norm condition did not. These findings support previous research on norms and suggest that using both in the same communication is the best strategy for enhancing support for earthquake-strengthening legislation.