Norms and Behavior

One Woman’s Quest

This is a fascinating story about a young Somali woman and her desire to sing in public after it had been outlawed.

Betsy Levy Paluck, a psychologist who researches social change, says that while we like to think that what we do is a reflection of what we think, “we’re constantly tuning ourselves to fit in with the social world around us.”

So what this work suggests is that if you change someone’s perception of what constitutes the social norm — as you convince people that the world is safe enough to sing in public even though in actual fact singing in public is incredibly dangerous — then you just might be able to move the needle on the ground. –Alix Spiegel

Action Theory Questioned

The conclusion about beliefs, norms, and behavior fascinating. I had taken a hard look at action theory in college and had fallen under the assumption that actions flow from beliefs.

But it looks like if you can change public norms, then people can behave in a way that they say they don’t believe in. This seems obvious, but it is still strange to think that norms loosen the connection between beliefs and behavior. We don’t readily acknowledge norms but are conscious of and refer continually to our beliefs.