Penn Social Norms Group Research and Resources

The understanding of the dynamics of social mobilization and change has moved beyond public health and legal approaches. There is now greater appreciation of the role of social norms in promoting or hindering development and the protection of human rights. Moreover, there is evidence that gender inequality – which is one of the main root causes of many of the negative realities that women and children face – persists because of the presence of a set of social norms. There is also a clearer conceptualization and evidence on the dynamics required for changing harmful social norms and strengthening positive ones. In the light of these advances, the Penn Social Norms Group offers training and consulting on understanding, measuring and changing social norms.

For the full accounts of Prof. Bicchieri's theory of social norms, see: Norms in the Wild, Oxford University Press, 2016 and The Grammar of Society, Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Also consider taking the Social Norms Coursera. For a sense of the Coursera's widespread impact, see Story 4 in UNICEF's Agora Annual Report 2016

For our recent collaboration with Chatham House, please read: Collective Action on Corruption in Nigeria: A Social Norms Approach to Connecting Society and Institutions


Penn + Gates Project: The Social Determinants of Open Defecation in India


Working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are in the midst of a three-year study analyzing social networks and social norms related to open defecation in two Indian states: Bihar and Tamil Nadu. Developing culturally appropriate social measures and survey questions, we are in the process of unpacking the core social motivators for a host of OD-related behaviors.

As part of the first phase of this project, we have produced a report detailing ways in which social networks influence latrine ownership, demographic predictors of ownership and use, and how our findings differ from existing literature. To request access to the report and related materials, please complete this form. Once you complete it, we will share a folder with you containing the materials within a few days.




Search results

Now showing 1 - 2 of 2
  • Publication
    A Structured Approach to a Diagnostic of Collective Practices
    (2014-12-05) Bicchieri, Cristina; Bicchieri, Cristina; Lindemans, Jan W; Jiang, Ting
    “How social norms change” is not only a theoretical question but also an empirical one. Many organizations have implemented programs to abandon harmful social norms. These programs are standardly monitored and evaluated with a set of empirical tools. While monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of changes in objective outcomes and behaviors is well developed, we will argue that M&E of changes in the wide range of beliefs and preferences important to social norms is still problematic. In this paper, we first present a theoretical framework and then show how it should guide social norms measurement. As a case study, we focus on the harmful practice of child marriage. We show how an operational theory of social norms can guide the design of surveys, experiments, and vignettes. We use examples from existing research to illustrate how to study social norms change.
  • Publication
    A Social Norms Perspective on Child Marriage: The General Framework
    (2014-01-01) Bicchieri, Cristina; Bicchieri, Cristina; Jiang, Ting; Lindemans, Jan W
    This paper offer a general theoretical framework that can, first, help integrate the different explanations of child marriage and, second, guide the development of measurement tools indispensable for child marriage M&E. Our theoretical framework is based on insights into how individuals make decisions. The collective practice of child marriage is ultimately a cluster of individual behaviors, so that, if we want to understand it, we have to understand why individuals behave in certain ways. This paper was written in collaboration with UNICEF and benefited from the technical input of UNICEF staff.