Social Norms and Transformation

Much has been made about social norms and transformation.  According to several articles on, there are three ways to establish norms quickly, especially for new members.

  1. Frequency. How often do members see this behavior repeated?
  2. Uniformity. What % of the visible members of the group embrace this behavior?
  3. Consistency. Is the behavior consistent?

Why are social norms interesting? Research shows that humans will change behavior based on their knowledge of what the neighbors are doing. One study showed that if you think your neighbor is saving more energy than you, you’ll conform to that norm.  This explains the ludicrous dedication Americans have to well-manicured lawns, those mono-culture horror shows.

Here are the three ways to nurture better norms:

1. Establish and Enforce A Social Norm – make sure they know its a new norm and have enforcement that is consistent. 

2. Foment And Foster Behavior That Spreads – Exhibit the new behavior that you like and believe in. You can’t force it command and control-wise.

3. Nurture existing behavior – Look for pre-existing activity which most closely resembles the behavior you want to see and give it more attention. The Heath brothers called this looking for the bright spots.

I love this concept and it applies from the business world to the family, so it’s a natural for HappyWisdom. Now…I wonder if it works on teenagers?  Check out the work from the FeverBee section on influence here.

TTYL – Joe


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