Norms and Beliefs: How Change Occurs

Part of the Computational Social Sciences book series (CSS)


Societies are rife with negative, damaging practices, from open defecation to female genital cutting (FGC), endemic in many developing countries, to corruption and violence against women and children that we also witness in many Western societies. The theoretical and practical challenge we face is twofold. On the one hand, we want to explain what generates and supports such practices. On the other, we want to find ways to change them permanently. We will argue here that social norms play an important role in both tasks. Often norms support or embed certain practices, so that eliminating the latter involves changing the former. Sometimes, however, norms have to be created in order to eliminate a negative practice and support a new one, as we know of several widely practiced behaviors that are not supported by norms, but can be changed by introducing them. To understand what we mean by “practice” and “norm,” we shall next refer to Bicchieri (2006) definition of social norms, a definition that allows to shed light on the way norms are supported, and on ways we may act to change them.


Social Norm Norm Change Normative Belief Common Pool Tipping Point 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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