Correcting misperceptions about trends and norms to address weak collective action

Fuhrmann-Riebel, Hanna / Ben D’Exelle / Kristian López Vargas / Sebastian Tonke / Arjan Verschoor
External Publications (2023)

published on, 04.01.2023

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We study how correcting people’s beliefs about social norms and behavioral trends encourages collective action in a setting where the desired behavior is not yet prevalent. In a field experiment among 1,709 subjects, we test whether low sign-up rates for a recycling program in urban Peru can be increased by providing information (1) that most people regard participation in the program as important, i.e., on the "injunctive norm", (2) on an increasing recent trend in sign-up rates. Correcting inaccurate beliefs increases sign-up decisions significantly among people who underestimate either the injunctive norm or the positive trend. This evidence demonstrates that belief updating can be used effectively to encourage collective action where it is currently weak.

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