Social Norm

One of the most frequently quoted Psychologists in my marketing classes was Robert Cialdini. He has a PhD in Psychology and spends most of his research in the field of Marketing, commonly interpreted as the application of psychology. Many of his work has every day applications, so I’ll eventually cover all of them on the blog, but today I’ll talk about Social Norms.

If you’ve stayed at a hotel, have you seen a card in the bathroom that asked you to reuse your towels? More likely than not, the card referenced something about saving water or saving the environment. Cialdini sneakily changed the words on some of the hotel guests’ cards. These are the four variations –

(1) HELP SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

(2) PARTNER WITH US TO HELP SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

(3) JOIN YOUR FELLOW GUESTS IN HELPING TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

(4) JOIN GUESTS THAT HAVE STAYED IN THIS SAME ROOM TO SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT

Which one do you think had the biggest compliance in reusing towels?

Both (3) and (4) use the Social Norm appeal, meaning that they mention others who are just like you (who stayed at the hotel). Knowing that others similar to you have reused the towel motivates you to do the same. (4), however, takes it a step further and makes the connection with other guests who have stayed in the exact same room. Does this work? After all, you don’t know the guests who have stayed before you, and probably don’t care.

It absolutely does work! Cialdini and his collaborators found that (3) increased towel reuse by 26% compared to (1). This is a huge increase given that they only changed one line on the card. What’s more remarkable is that in (4), they found a 33% increase in towel reuse participation compared to (1).

Using the power of social psychology in creative ways can have powerful impact. In this case, it helped effectively reduce water and electricity usage. In our daily lives, try to establish social norm to increase compliance to your idea – it could be getting your friend to go to a party with you, or increasing attendance to your next Meet-Up event.

Have a great week!
Steph

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