Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1–20

A Light Bulb Goes On: Norms, Rhetoric, and Actions for the Public Good

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11109-011-9186-5

Cite this article as:
Bolsen, T. Polit Behav (2013) 35: 1. doi:10.1007/s11109-011-9186-5


This paper explores whether invoking social norms, in the context of a persuasive appeal, affects individuals’ willingness to take action for the public good. The framework I develop brings together a host of factors treated as distinct in past work, including attitudes, rhetoric, and social norms. I test predictions from this framework in an experiment that focuses on a particularly important behavior—actions regarding the consumption of energy. I find that highlighting norms in the context of an appeal for energy conservation increases the importance individuals’ associate with these actions, intentions to conserve energy, and actual behavior on a light-bulb purchasing decision. The findings have implications more generally for understanding when individuals take actions that promote the public good.


Social normsPersuasive appealsCollective actionEnergy conservation

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA