Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1–20 | Cite as

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

Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Social norms Persuasive appeals Collective action Energy conservation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank Dennis Chong, Fay Lomax Cook, James N. Druckman, Jennifer Jerit, Martin Johnson, Peter Loewen, Sean Richey, and Kim Mannemar Sonderskon for comments on this manuscript. I thank Lindsey Herbel and Veronica Luckow for research assistance. The research was supported by a Graduate Research Grant from Northwestern University.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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