Penn SoNG

Headed by experts in the field of behavioral change, Penn SoNG provides research, consulting, and training services to organizations that aim to positively impact human behavior.

 

University of Pennsylvania
Social Norms Group

PENN SoNG NOTEBOOK

Phase 1 Gates Update

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded Penn SoNG to study the social…

Norm-Supporting Emotions

Cristina Bicchieri and Erik Thulin recently published “Norm-Supporting Emotions: From Villages to Complex…

Freedoms, Inequality and Social Change

We are excited to begin a new research project in the spring investigating the…

Honesty and Social Norms

Penn SoNG is excited to be participating in the “Everybody Does It: Understanding Honesty…

Phase 1 Gates Update


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded Penn SoNG to study the social aspects that affect sanitation practices in India above and beyond infrastructure limitations. Despite large-scale national efforts, 40% of the Indian population still practices open defecation (OD). Our project is designed to inform interventions to reduce open defecation in India by studying populations in Bihar and Tamil Nadu on: i) the existing social networks ii) the social norms surrounding latrine use.


In 2017, we conducted a survey among over 3000 individuals to measure how social networks affect latrine use in urban, peri-urban, and rural communities. We are particularly interested in who are the most influential people in these communities. We are using the results of this survey to inform a second survey, in which we measure how social norms influence latrine use and who people care about when deciding whether to adhere to particular norms.

Norm-Supporting Emotions


Cristina Bicchieri and Erik Thulin recently published “Norm-Supporting Emotions: From Villages to Complex Societies” in Morality, Governance, and Social Institutions

ABSTRACT: How do socially imposed rules develop into internalized pro-social codes? In the article “From Bodo Ethics to Distributive Justice”, Russell Hardin discusses one of the central themes of his work: How we “export” social order from a small, insular community to a large, anonymous society. In Bodo’s small village, everyone knows everyone else, interactions are face-to-face, and people live relatively isolated from other communities.

In this context, the social norms developed by the community are easily enforceable. But what about large, anonymous societies, where monitoring is difficult and costly and sanctioning transgressions carries a greater risk? When unobserved, only someone with an inner motivation to behave in a socially beneficial way will continue to obey the informal rules. How such an inner motivation develops is a topic of debate in moral philosophy and psychology, especially whether pro-social decisions are a matter of rationality or are driven by emotions. Supporters of the emotional drivers of pro-social behavior argue that anger and empathy play an essential role.

Freedoms, Inequality and Social Change

We are excited to begin a new research project in the spring investigating the relationship between perceptions of inequality and perceptions of freedom. Our main hypothesis is that perceptions of freedom and autonomy shape perceptions of inequality, and vice versa. As people perceive themselves and others as having less autonomy/freedom – they also perceive greater inequality, especially inequality of opportunity.

Conversely, when people perceive themselves as having greater freedom, they also perceive less inequality and enhanced opportunity. A corollary of this hypothesis is that changes in perceived inequality over time affect people’s perception of autonomy such that perceptions of increasing inequality will further decrease perceptions of autonomy/freedom. Does perceiving an “inequality trajectory” affect our sense of autonomy/freedom? How much?

Honesty and Social Norms

Penn SoNG is excited to be participating in the “Everybody Does It: Understanding Honesty and Transgression from Social Norms” Conference hosted by Corpovisionarios in Colombia.

Raj Patel presented during the opening day on social norms and will lead a workshop on the second focusing on social norms surrounding corruption. For more about the conference, go here.

The Penn-UNICEF Partnership

From 2010-2015, UNICEF staff from all over the world and from all backgrounds fly to Philadelphia to participate in our program. These programs served as a proving ground where theory met practice with the needs of each informing the other.

Penn & the Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding Penn SoNG’s multi-year study of the social factors supporting open defecation in rural and urban India. Our ultimate goal is to design an effective, research-based intervention that promotes the social drivers of latrine use.

OUR STORIES. THEIR STORIES.

Coursera

Our partnership with UNICEF proved beneficial in developing our MOOC “Social Norms, Social Change,” which offers a compelling blend of theoretical and practical content. We reach a vastly wider audience.

Behavioral Ethics Lab

Part of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn SoNG has an important relationship with the Behavioral Ethics Lab. Our group is informed by its interdisciplinary, cutting edge research in social norms theory.

DESTINATIONS

Training Around the Globe

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Destinations

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