Can we change social norms?


Can we change social norms?



Every community has behaviors that are considered normal and each of them enforces these actions in a variety of ways. Why do cultures converge on particular actions and how much choice do individuals have to obey? Is it possible to identify which are norms and which are just idiosyncrasies? Most importantly, if we determine that these social expectations are immoral, is it possible to intentionally change them? This episode of Why? Radio explores behaviors ranging from child marriage to when it’s appropriate to yell at one another, and asks how and when to change social norms.

Cristina Bicchieri is the Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics program. Her research focuses on rational choice and philosophy of social science, as well as behavioral ethics. She consults and trains through UNICEF, the Gates foundation, the World Bank, DFID and other organizations to develop measures of social norms in the field. She is the author of numerous books, most recently Norms in the Wild: How to Diagnose, Measure, and Change, Social Norms.


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Institute for Philosophy in Public Life



Can we change social norms?