Social Norms: A Review

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Adrienne Chung
Rajiv N. Rimal


Social norms, as a topic of inquiry, has garnered a lot of attention from a variety of perspectives in recent years. Because of the rapidly-growing interest in social norms from scholars in multiple disciplines, this area of scholarship is often characterized by a lack of clarity on what constitutes social norms and how key concepts are operationalized.  The objectives of this article are to (a) provide a review of the fast-expanding literature on social norms, (b) delineate similarities and differences in key operational definitions, (c) highlight findings linking social norms and human behaviors, (d) review theories that explicate how norms affect behaviors, and (e) provide suggestions for future research in this area. This review highlights the need to specify moderators in the relationship between norms and behaviors (which represent conditions under which social norms exert their influence) and then to categorize these underlying moderators according to a theoretically compelling framework. This review highlights the need for more studies designed to test the causal relationship between social norms and behaviors as well as those that study norms from a qualitative perspective.

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