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…

Why False Beliefs Drive Acceptance of Corruption

PennSoNG Member Raj Patel explains the importance of measuring institutionalized corruption before testing as…

Freedoms, Inequality and Social Change

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

Child Marriage and Malnutrition in Mali

Penn SoNG members Sam Gant and Rachel Sander recently returned to Philadelphia from a…

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.

Why False Beliefs Drive Acceptance of Corruption

PennSoNG Member Raj Patel explains the importance of measuring institutionalized corruption before testing as social norms to see what factors drive behavioral patterns. He talks about how surveying social norms can expose assumptions among individuals that certain behaviors are widely accepted, whereas in reality acceptance is low. Challenging these false beliefs can hugely improve the impact of collective action in changing behavior.

Raj also outlines how societal change can happen quickly (within a single generation) because enough people’s values change at once or there is a realization that a majority within society feel the same way about certain behaviors. LINK TO THE VIDEO from Chatham House.

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?

Child Marriage and Malnutrition in Mali

Penn SoNG members Sam Gant and Rachel Sander recently returned to Philadelphia from a three-week trip to Mali.  They are collaborating with UNICEF to research the social expectations and reference networks that maintain child marriage and malnutrition.

In February 2019, a SoNG-designed survey will be deployed to 6,000 respondents in two regions of the country.  Results of this survey will inform UNICEF’s national-level strategy for communications and collective behavioral change.  Final results are anticipated in June 2019.

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.

Featured Engagements & Case Studies

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

Destinations Placeholder
Destinations

Previous Project Sponsors