Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

The influence of message framing and issue involvement

The research in the reading reveals that people are highly risk averse when messages are framed positively and more focus on benefits gained such as saving lives. They will risk seeking when messages are framed negatively and more focus on benefits lost (i.e. losing of lives).  The level of involvement will affect on the type of framing used to persuade people effectively.

Message Framing

According to Levin, Meyerowitz and Chaiken (1987), message framing uses either on positive product attributes and benefits gained though product usage or negative product attributes and benefits lost by not using the product.

An example is breast self-examination (BSE) for young women, whereby the same message can be framed to focus on positive aspects (i.e. Women can detect tumour early by doing BSE) or on negative aspects (i.e. Women have less chances to detect tumour at an early stage). Both types of framing convey the same message but in a different perspective.

Issue Involvement

Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy (1990) highlighted in their research that under high involvement conditions, the advocacy is more persuasive when the message is framed negatively and when under low involvement conditions, it is more persuasive when the message is framed positively.

Through figure 1, we can understand that in high involvement condition, negative framing produced more favourable attitudes and greater intentions to comply with the message given, whereas in the low involvement condition, positive framing will produce more favourable attitudes and greater intention to accept.

Overall, we can deduce that attitudes and intentions are higher when issue involvement is high than when the issue involvement is low.

Cognitive Response

Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy (1990) also highlighted in their research that generation of top-of-mind thoughts is greater when issue involvement is high and the generation of simple evaluative thoughts is greater when issue involvement is low.

More positive thoughts were generated when message framing was positive and more negative thoughts were aroused when message framing was negative.


When issue involvement was low, people will not process the message thoroughly and make judgement based on their attitudes on simple inferences. Hence, they will find the advocacy more persuasive when message framing was positive.

When issue involvement was high, people will use detailed processing on the message and make judgement based on normative and unbiased responses and thus, more weight is assigned to negative message due to scepticism towards positive message. Hence, they will find the advocacy more persuasive when message framing was negative.


Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy (1990) suggested that marketers might be advised to utilise negatively framed messages when audience involvement with an ad issue is high and utilise positively framed messages when the audience has casual interest.

There are several factors that are likely to influence audience involvement:

1) Product category (i.e. top designer merchandise)

2) Media communicate the ad (i.e. print media, TV)

3) Particular vehicle in which the ad is place (i.e.  TV Guide, Health magazine)

4) Etc.

Can you name an advertisement that is negatively framed with high audience involvement? Or what other factor you can think of that can influence audience involvement?

– slky87


Maheswaran, D., & Meyers-Levy, J. (1990). The influence of message framing and issue involvement. Journal of Marketing Research, 27, 361-367


Evolving scientific research governance in Australia: a case study of engaging interested publics in nanotechnology research

This article starts by introducing nanotechnology in Australia and how the public has been involved in the discussion of science and technology. The different aspects and options for integrating science and nanotechnology to a social context and development governance are part of the key focus in this article.

It is argued that the role of public discussion in scientific research is a radical concept particularly for the organisations and scientists involved in the decision making and daily schedule planning processes. Research governance has been evolving in order to cater to the growing public demand for greater accountability, an approach that detracts from the traditional scientific approaches as it seeks to detach science from values. This has become a critical challenge to these traditional scientific approaches because of the years of research into the depths of the social dimensions of science and technology.

CSIRO, a national research organisation that concentrates on natural, physical and information science research is facing an acute governance decision on how to prioritise its research objectives and determining the roles of the layman interested in such nanotechnology research. These roles are currently missing. The lack of public support for nanotechnologies in general has created a void for a new aspect of social science involvement.

Nanotechnology research organisations have encountered a dilemma in their study of new methods in integration society and public involvement in the development process. This dilemma is two-fold; on one front, such organisations face the dilemma of prediction and on the other side, the dilemma of control. One must first understand that nanotechnology research in still in its infancy and thus one cannot easily predict the consequences of such emerging technologies. Long term research or studies are also non-existent and research is still an ongoing process. Thus there is the dilemma of prediction. The other dilemma of control refers to the state in which organisations are so actively engaged in the research of such emerging technologies that it becomes extremely challenging to rectify and at a great expense.

Ongoing research on public engagement has determined how members of the public evaluate nanotechnology and also the skills required to identify the range of social values and criteria that a participant may use in their assessments. Certain issues must be highlighted as they command a high priority. Such issues include: accountability and transparency in nanotechnology research and development, the health and safety of those working in the production of nanoparticles, the health of the natural environment etc.

A further study was conducted on the options and possibilities of integrating social issues and public concerns into scientific research. This study determined that:

  • Technical Design
    Identifying points in the research and development process where different design choices are possible.
  • Research portfolio
    Research into social and ethical considerations, alongside the technical research, to help identify key issues and where positive impacts could be achieved.
  • Social engagement
    Improving research decision-making and practice about nanotechnologies by engaging with a range of perspectives from lay and expert knowledges and through informed public debate.
  • Developing a scientific culture
    Fostering a climate for the scientists in which social and ethical considerations are seen as legitimate and important, and where scientists are rewarded for including such considerations in their work.

In conclusion, there is ongoing exploration on the possibilities of integrating public engagement in nanotechnology governance. Research is moving at a very fast pace and there are a number of complex issues to be tackled before any decision is determined to ensure a smooth integration process. There is also the need to recognise the limitations of public involvement.

Katz, E., Solomon, F., Mee, W., Lovel, R. (2009) Evolving scientific research governance in Australia: a case study of engaging interested publics in nanotechnology research. Public Understanding of Science, 18 (5), 531-545.


Measuring public support for animal welfare legislation: A case study of cage egg production

Battery cages are an industrial agricultural confinement system used primary for egg-laying hens. There have been a lot of issues among advocates of animal welfare/animal rights and industrial egg producers as the hens are confined into cramp cages with no space to move and run around which is considered as animal cruelty to most people. (Wikipedia 2010)

Looking at the photo above (the light you see is from the camera, note the darkness at the far right of the photo), you can see that the hens are living in horrid conditions, imagine being confined to a small cage with no space to turn around and having to defecate and eat at the same area. The hens in battery cages do not see sunlight to prevent them from pecking and some animal advocates feel that it is a concern, as hens prefer to eat in brightly lit environments.

Legislation has been the first tool of the governments in protecting the welfare of animals. It is necessary because animal welfare is considered as a free and public good, which would lead the animals to be over-exploited by others if there were no rules to protect them.

In the reading, Bennett investigates the application of a survey technique, contingent valuation, to estimate people’s willingness to pay to support animal welfare legislation. (Bennett R. 1998)

2000 citizens in Great Britain were randomly picked for the survey. Questionnaires were mailed to households and those who completed the questionnaire were able to partake in a free prize draw in order to encourage people to complete the questionnaires.

Only 1% of the respondents said that they were not concerned that farm animals may suffer or be mistreated in the process of producing food and other agricultural products which means that a large number of respondents were somewhat concerned about animal welfare.

More than 50% of the respondents were concerned with the housing/living conditions of animals, feed and medicines given to the animals and the treatment of the animals during transport, at markets and at slaughter.

Thankfully, with the introduction of the European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC, conventional battery cages would be banned in the EU from January 2012 onwards, which means that the number of eggs from battery cages in the EU states is rapidly decreasing. (Wikipedia 1999)

Switzerland and Germany have banned conventional battery cages as well and other countries like United States and Australia have also set higher standards with regards to conventional battery cages as well.

As people are more concerned about animal welfare, conventional battery cages would be ‘a thing of the past’ soon.

Questions I’d like to pose to the readers:

1)How do you guys feel about conventional battery cages?

2)Would you buy animal products if you know that the animals suffered in the process?


Bennett, R. (1998) Measuring Public Support for Animal Welfare Legislation: A Case Study of Cage Egg Production. Animal Welfare, 7 (1), p.1-10. (2010) Battery cage – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 25 Oct 2012]. (1999) European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 25 Oct 2012].


Alcohol marketing research: the need for a new agenda

In general, marketing companies use four tools to bring products and customers’ needs into alignment: product design, pricing, distribution and promotion. This article focuses on promotion, which covers the area of communications with the consumer, including mass media advertising, product placements, sponsorship; public relations and point of sale display.

Studies shows that advertising in the traditional media influences drinking initiation, levels of consumption and drinking patterns in young people.


Below are some of the drinking behaviors findings, focusing on existing drinkers:

1)     Marketing messages may be processed using unconscious affect-based processes rather than slower logic based processes

2)     Personally relevant messages may be more likely to be internalized and cognitively available during decision making

3)     Easy cognitive availability of a decision option can predicts decision outcomes in situations where the default position is heuristic rather than analytical decision making.

4)     Marketing can affect memories of drinking occasions. As memories of positive outcomes promote repeat behaviour, marketing may play a special role in driving repeat consumption. Thus, while research on young people should continue, it is important that research also establishes to what degree marketing reinforces consumption among existing drinkers, and whether it hampers attempts to drink in moderation.


An important uncertainty concerns the timing of marketing effects, for example, how soon after implementation of a policy should researchers expect consumption effects—immediately, or possibly only once an unexposed generation has grown up.

There is empirical support for direct, immediate effects of marketing on consumption. A suggested mechanism for immediate effects is that alcohol portrayals act as cues for imitative behaviour or prompt craving. For example, a Dutch team showed in an experiment that young men watching movies in which actors drank frequently or contains commercial breaks with alcohol advertising. He drank substantially more alcohol during and immediately after a TV-watching episode rather than watching movies with infrequent drinking or non-alcohol advertisements (Engels et al., 2009). Thus, portrayals of actual drinking behaviours, regardless of via product placements or advertisements, appear to influence drinking levels directly.

On the other hand, there are longer-term influences via individuals’ drinking-related to affective or cognitive responses. Longitudinal studies provided first estimates of cumulative advertising effect sizes for young people, following by children and young adults for up to 8 years. Results show that young people are more likely to continue to increase their drinking behaviours into their 20s in markets with greater overall exposure to alcohol advertising than in markets with less exposure (Anderson, 2009).


In order to understand further the effects of alcohol message targeting, it may be possible to examine historical changes in advertising methods and target markets. For instance, we can find out whether increased marketing to affluent young women is matched by consumption changes in this group of consumers. Besides, comparative research with samples of people who are exposed similarly to marketing, but for whom marketing messages are likely to feel less relevant, could be informative to them and affect their consumption. Alternatively, retrospective cohort designs could be used to investigate personal characteristics that predict differential responses to marketing, comparing those with similar levels of marketing exposure but different drinking outcomes.


Up till now, studies have tended to rely on simplified models of marketing and have focused disproportionately on youth populations. Hence, more researches of the impact of alcohol towards a broader range of consumers, from youth to elderly should be done in order to get a better image of the effect of alcohol marketing efforts.


Meier, P. (2011). Alcohol marketing research: the need for a new agenda. Addiction, 106, 466–471.

Anderson P., de Bruijn A., Angus K., Gordon R., Hastings G. Impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Alcohol Alcohol 2009; 44: 229–43.

Engels R. C. M. E., Hermans R., van Baaren R. B., Hollenstein T., Bot S. M. Alcohol portrayal on television affects actual drinking behaviour. Alcohol Alcohol 2009; 44: 244–9.

Classical Conditioning and Celebrity Endorsers: An Examination of Belongingness and Resistance to Extinction

This reading talks about the effect of pairing a celebrity with a brand and also by testing the efficacy of such endorsement using classical conditioning procedures.

What is Classical Conditioning?

Classical conditioning is a process by which an unconditioned stimulus (US), a stimulus that naturally produces a response, is paired with a conditioned stimulus (CS), a stimulus that does not naturally produce the response but come to elicit the conditioned response (CR) following the pairing (Shimp, 1991).

Why the use of celebrity endorsements in advertising?


  • Celebrities are more efficient at attracting attention in a world where consumers are inundated with advertising messages.
  • Celebrities already hold a place in consumers’ minds, they are perceived to be more entertaining and trustworthy.


  • Negative publicity could arise if a celebrity becomes part of a scandal or some other negative event.
  • However, using celebrities (victims) involved in negative situations when there is low or no blame can actually help the company.

Overall the process is still viewed as profitable despite the risks.

Aspects of Classical Conditioning.

Belongingness and the Match-Up Hypothesis

Careful consideration typically surrounds the choice of suitable celebrity endorser whereby they are evaluated on a number of criteria to determine the best match for brands.

The match-up hypothesis occurs when ‘highly relevant characteristics of the spokesperson are consistent with highly relevant attributes of the brand. And when there is a perceived fit between the endorser and the brand, both brand recall and affect are increased.


Another important aspect of classical conditioning is the degree to which attitudes are resistant (or not resistant) to extinction. Persistence of classically conditioned attitudes suggests that such attitudes will endure unless individuals are exposed to extinction trials consisting of presenting the brand in the absence of the favorable stimuli. Specifically, the CS (brand) is presented without pairing it with the US (favorable stimulus). The individual then learns that the CS no longer predicts the presence of the US.


H1: Individuals exposed to the systematic pairing of a brand with a celebrity (treatment condition) will develop a more favorable attitude toward the brand than individuals in

H2: Conditioned brand attitudes (difference between the treatment condition and the control condition) will be greater when there is a perceived fit between the brand and the celebrity.

H3: Conditioned brand attitudes (difference between treatment and control conditions) will persist after extinction protocols.

Study 1

  • Was a simple two-group design using a treatment vs control group and employing basic, well-established classical conditioning procedure (Shimp, 1991)
  • The dependent variable was attitude toward the target brand.
  • The treatment group was exposed to systematic pairing of the CS (brand) with the US (celebrity) amid assorted filler image.
  • The control group was exposed to a random mix of the identical images as the test group with no systematic pairing of the CS and US.
  • Experiment was conducted in groups of 25 and 50 subjects during class time where they have to measure the brand attitude after exposing to the pairing for both groups.
  • Results confirmed that a classical conditioning procedure using celebrities as the US can be effective in generating positive attitudes toward a previously affectively neutral brand.

Study 2

  • Was a 2×2 factorial design
  • One factor was treatment vs control condition while the other factor was the perceived fit between the celebrity endorser and the product endorsed.
  • The dependent variable was attitude toward the brand (CS).
  • Similar to Study 1, subjects in the treatment groups were exposed to five CS/US pairings while control group exposed to the same images in random order.
  • The results suggest that conditioning is more effective in brand attitude formation when celebrity fit is high.

Results indicate that simply pairing a well-liked celebrity with a brand can positivity affect brand attitude. Do you agree and what are you views on this topic?


Till B. D., Stanley, S. M. & Priluck, R. (2008). Classical conditioning and celebrity endorsers: An examination of belongingness and
resistance to extinction. Psychology and Marketing, 25, 179-196

– tarrycher

An aggregate examination of the backlash effect in political advertising: The case of the 1996 senate race in Minnesota

This reading explains the “dual effects” of negative political information targeted at the public, and tries to find out the intended and unintended effects of negative advertising during a political campaign. Politicians spend significant amount of money on advertising during campaigns to garner support from the voters. These advertisements can be positive (where the ad makes good of the politician) or negative (where the ad fires other politician).

In this reading, two politicians are involved – Wellstone and Boschwitz. Boschwitz’s favourability dropped while Wellstone’s favourability remained. Some explanation for this would include the fact that there has been negative information about Boschwitz in advertisements sponsored by Wellstone. However, in such situations, there can be a backlash, where the negative information will hurt the sponsor of the ad instead of the targeted politician.

Two main forms of advertising that play a significant role in influencing voters’ decision are television broadcast and news coverage. Most consultants think that providing negative information always works. Research has shown that negative notions works better than positive notions when creating impressions.

Intended effects of negative advertising aims to invoke negative feelings from the voters to the target politician. On the contrary, unintended effects of negative advertising are those that hurt the sponsors unexpectedly. As such, negative information in political advertising is a double-edged sword. The effect of negative information would depend on the sources of the message. For example, positive advertising messages from Boschwitz could favour him; negative advertising messages from Boschwitz targeted at Wellstone would result in a backlash, thus affecting his favourability.

The intended effects model and the intended plus backlash effects model were tested. Findings are as per below:

  1. Positive information about Boschwitz increased his favourability.
  2. Negative information caused a drop in the public’s favourability ratings of Boschwitz.
  3. The impact of negative information is four times greater than the impact of positive information.

Granted, these findings have their own limitations, one being the fact that they are based on a single case study. However, it acts as a good gauge for the impact that negative advertising messages can have on a politician. Also, the credibility of the source and its persuasiveness has a linear relationship. On top of it all, the number of advertisements can affect how voters feel about the politician – the more ads they see, the more they detest the politician.


Points to think about:

  • Do you think that adding humour into political ads will help the politician or cause a backlash?
  • What are some of the effective methods that have been used in Singapore to gain voters’ favourability?


Jasperson A. E. & Fan D. P. (2002). An aggregate examination of the backlash effect in political advertising: The case of the 1996 senate race in Minnesota. Journal of Advertising, 31, 1-12.


Exploring the relationship between celebrity endorser effects and advertising effectiveness: A quantitative synthesis of effect size. International Journal of Advertising

The reading discusses the various points of celebrity endorsements, the good and negative things that it brings to endorsed products. Companies get celebrities to add value to their company, brand or product.

Meaning transfer model

Consumers purchase the product hoping to claim some of the transferred meanings for their lives. For example, people buy endorsed clothes and hope to be able to look “cool” “pretty” like the celebrity.

Research has also shown that these points affect endorsements:

1. Celebrity performance

  • This refers to the level of achievement a celebrity attains.
  • It can refer to their athletic performance, acting/musical success.
  • If a celebrity fails to perform acceptably, the effectiveness of the endorsement tends to decline

 2. Negative celebrity information

  • Consumers tend to link the brand to celebrity and vice versa, after repeated endorsements.
  • Negative information on the celebrity may negatively impact the endorsed brand.
  • However I think that for F&B, celebrity news will not really affect them, especially big brands. Consumers already like the food, therefore they will not actually think that the food is bad if the endorser “turned bad”. On the other hand, if food has bad image such as chemical or poisonous details, celebrity will be affected.

 3. Celebrity credibility

Consumers generally view the celebrities as credible sources of information about the product/company they endorse.

a. Source credibility model

  • Looks at the factors that affect the perceived credibility of the endorser.
  • The effectiveness of the message depends on the expertise and trustworthiness of the endorser

b. Source attractiveness model

  • Looks at the attractiveness of the endorser which includes – similarity, familiarity and likability
  • When consumers see the endorser as “similar” to them, familiar with and like the celebrity, they will tend to view the endorser as attractive.

 4. Celebrity expertise

  • Consumers look to see if the endorser has the skills and qualifications to endorse the product.
  • For example, sports brands hire athletes to endorse their products. Or, chefs endorse for cookery products. And not singers endorsing for cookery products.
  • Consumers will be able to react better to the endorser’s recommendation compared to those endorsers with low expertise.

 Celebrity trustworthiness

  • The degree of confidence that consumers have on the endorser.

                           i.      Favorable disposition

                           ii.      Acceptance

                          iii.      Psychological safety

                          iv.      Perceived supportive climate

  • Research has shown that opinionated message from a highly trustworthy endorser produces an effective attitude change among consumers.  

5. Celebrity attractiveness

  • Physical attractiveness, Personality, Athletic ability
  • Attractive endorsers have more positive impact on the products than less attractive endorsers.

 6. Celebrity fit

  • Harmony of the match between endorser and product.


This raises the question on celebrities who portray “bad” image and their effectiveness. The image that they portray may appeal or alienate consumers. I feel that different literature studies will be needed to study this part of endorsements.

What other points of endorsements can you point out?


Amos, C., Holmes, G. & Strutton, D. (2008). Exploring the relationship  between celebrity endorser effects and advertising effectiveness: A quantitative synthesis of effect size. International Journal of Advertising, 27, 209-­‐234.


Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment

The paper discussed how communications that activate social norms (normative information) can be effective in influencing conducts that benefits the society. The author, Cialdini (2003), pointed out that normative information can backfire on the communicator. He made an interesting point that moblising action by emphasizing the frequency of a problem is actually a misguided approach. For example, by communicating that many youth are taking illegal drugs (a descriptive norm), it can be sending a message to people that taking illegal drugs is ‘popular’ with youth. It does not tell that people typically disapprove consumption of illegal drugs (injunctive norm). Cialdini (2003) opined that good normative messages align descriptive norms with injunctive norms, and failing to differentiate these two types of norms can devastate any well-intended communication effort.

Descriptive versus Injunctive Norms

Cialdini (2003) used the example of an anti-littering public service announcement (PSA) “Iron Eyes Cody spot” to demonstrate use of descriptive norm and injunctive norm. Although the spot urged people to stop littering, it had an underlying message that people were littering because it showed an already-littered environment. Both types of norms were evident in the spot, but they were opposing each other instead of complementing each other. Cialdini et al. (1990) did a ‘littering’ experiment to test their hypotheses about descriptive norm. Results showed that participants were more inclined to litter in a fully-littered environment due to the perception that many people littered there, and were less inclined to litter in a clean environment despite seeing someone littering at the place due to the perception that most people did not litter there except a few.

Based on the result, Iron Eyes Cody PSA could have been more effective if it had used a clean environment (to imply the descriptive norm that people do not litter), together with the injunctive norm of the character shedding a disapproving tear after seeing the trash.

Environmental Theft

Cialdini (2003) used the case of Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park to show that messages focusing on injunctive norm is superior to messages focusing on descriptive norm.

In an experiment at the Petrified Forest National Park, petrified woods were placed along visitor pathways. At the entrance of each pathway, two different signs were put up to stop people from removing petrified woods from the park – one was focused on descriptive norm while the other was focused on injunctive norm. Consequently, the pathway with the sign focused on injunctive norm had less theft.


Descriptive norms are not entirely counterproductive. It can be effective when used to highlight prevalent behaviour that is beneficial to the environment like recycling.


Communicators should avoid sending messages that have one type of norms opposing the other. Injunctive and descriptive norms should work in tandem to communicate a message. Communicators should apply the norm appropriate to the context of the communication.

My Views

I agree with Cialdini on his point that using descriptive norms in communication may backfire. In order for descriptive norm to be effective in an advertisement, we need to know what we want to highlight. Is there something we want people to do more? If there is, apply descriptive norm to show people doing more of that thing. Cialdini, however, did not take into consideration the role of one’s own moral judgement. If someone detests littering, putting the person in the litter-filled environment could disgust him/her more than encourage him/her to litter.


Here’s something to ponder on…

1) Is using norms in advertisements (especially PSAs) effective?

2) Does showing more of an undesirable conduct encourages people to engage in that conduct or deter them from doing so?

3) Are there other factors that could affect how people process normative messages (i.e. moral values, culture, education)?



Cialdini, R.B. (2003). Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment. Current Directions in Psychological Science 12: 105-109.

Cialdini, R.B., Barrett, D.W., Bator, R., Demaine, L.J., Sagarin, B.J., Rhoads, K.v.L., & Winter, P.L. (2003). Activating and aligning social norms for persuasive impact. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Cialdini, R.B, Reno, R.R., & Kallgren, C.A. (1990). A focus theory of normative conduct: Recycling the concept of norms to reduce littering in public places. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 1015–1026.


– janisuhoshi (20906271)

An Explication of Social Norms

The article identifies four factors for consideration in norms-based research to enhance the predictive ability of theoretical models.

1) Perceived & Collective norms / Descriptive & Injunctive norms
2) Role of important moderators in the relationship between descriptive norms & behaviours
3) Role of interpersonal & mass communication in normative influences
4) Behavioural attributes

Collective & Perceived norms]
– Collective norms operate at the level of community or society, representing a collective social entity’s code of conduct, emerging through shared interaction among members of a social group or community (Bettenhausen & Murnighan, 1985)
– Perceived norms exist at an individual, psychological level, representing an individual’s interpretation of the prevailing collective norm

[Injunctive & Descriptive norms]
– Injunctive norms refer to people’s beliefs about what ought to be done (Cialdini, Reno, & Kallren, 1990)
– Descriptive norms refer to beliefs about what is actually done by most people in one’s social group

Bendor and Swistak (2001) proffer that norms are meaningful only to the extent that individuals perceive that their violation will result in some social sanction. When one’s behaviour are driven by this, we can associate the influence to injunctive norms. The primary difference between injunctive & descriptive norms is that descriptive norms typcally do not involve social sanctions for non-compliance.

Often, injunctive and descriptive norms are congruent.
One example which the author gave was a formal meeting context – when most others are silent and attentive (descriptive norms), one would be required to act similarly and they will incur social sanctions if they do not comply (injunctive norms).
There are also cases where injunctive and descriptive norms do not overlap, such situation will be when people approve of certain actions, but do not practise it.

Jones and Gerard (1967) suggested that normative influences typically take two forms.
1) Effect dependence: People are dependent on others to meet their needs, hence they are concerned about others’ evaluation of their behaviours
2) Informational dependence: Individuals look to others in order to know what they are doing

Informational dependence can be further broken down into two types, depending on whether people believe that their behaviors will be known by others. In other words, individual may learn about other people’s behaviour, however, may choose not to conform to it if they believe that their behaviours will not be known to others. One example brought up by the author is the recycling of waste.

The author also highlighted that interpersonal communication can result in the transmission of incorrect beliefs about the prevalance of a behaviour. Individuals often misperceive the prevalence of a behaviour in their social midst (Clapp & McDonnell, 2000; Perkins & Wechsler, 1996). This is also supported by the cultivation theory (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1994), where mediated messages may influence perceptions of the prevalance of a behaviour too.

[Moderators in the Influence of Descriptive Norms]
Cruz et al.; Rimal & Real, 2003) indicated that the perceived popularity of a behavior will compel people to act accordingly if they:
1) Perceive that enacting the behaviour will confer benefits (outcome expectations)
2) Share strong affinity with their referent group (group identity)
– nature of group identity across cultures (Triandis, 1989) varies eg: A Chinese may have stonger identification with referent group than an
3) View the attitude or behaviour as central to their self-concept (ego involvement)
– an example cited by the author is that people who see themselves as “drinkers” view this role as a central part of their self-concept (Conner &
Armitage, 1998) and are thus likely to be highly ego-involved in behaviours related to alcohol consumption.

[Communication of Norms]
An interesting point highlighted by the author is that, many norms-based interventions seek to correct misperceptions about the prevalence of a behaviour with the belief that this will result in behaviour change (Berkowitz, 2004). eg: alcohol consumption in campus

However, an area is often neglected – question of how these misperceived descriptive norms are formed to begin with.

[Behavioural Attributes]
1) Ambiguity:
– Bystander apathy is one good illustrations of the role of ambiguity in normative influences
– Cialdini (2001) refer this phenomenon of mass inaction as ‘social proof’, where people view a behaviour as ‘correct’ when we see others doing it

2) Behavioural Privacy:
– Behaviour is enacted in a public or private setting is also likely to moderate normative influences (Bagozzi et al., 2000; Cialdini et al., 1990)
– When one’s behaviour is enacted away from public eye, there will be no opportunity to observe other’s behavior & also not observable for others’ scrutiny, hence lesser pressure to conform to injunctive norms
– An interesting point brought up by the author is that:
– this may explain why some interventions designed to increase condom use, a largely private behavior, find smaller effects for normative
influences (Sutton, McVey, & Glanz, 1999) as compared to more public behaviors eg. food consumption



Lapinski, M.K., & Rimal, R. N. (2005).  An Explication of Social Norms. Communication Theory, 15(2), 127-147.

Gendered giving: the influence of social norms on the donation behaviour of men and women

This reading studies about the different influences when determining the level of charitable giving of men and women.

In 2007, America, $229 billion from the total amount of $306.39 billion donated to charity came from individuals and households (Giving USA, 2008). However, many non-profit organisations still has difficulties in obtaining funds. Previous literature, journals and elsewhere continue to address the challenge to increasing donations.

Descriptive social norms will be focused in this study and it specifies what is typically done in a given setting (what most people do).  Two sets of mechanism, self-verification and self-presentation, are identified through which descriptive norms affect behaviour. Previous research demonstrated that men are more likely to react to norms if it reinforces self-verification of being generous while women reacts more when it reinforces good relationship with others.

  • Self-verification (“Self-focused”)
    • Highlights the important function of self-focused mechanisms in guiding people’s behaviour (Lecky, 1945)
    • Individuals have a certain self-concept and they choose their behaviour to sustain this concept
  • Self-presentation (“Relationship-focused”)
    • People conform to social norms to maintain a good relationship with the social groups endorsing the norms
    • Individuals give in order to develop and maintain their relationship with the organisation’s leadership, their peer group who values the organisation or its beneficiaries

In this research we focus on how social norms influence donation levels to non-profit organisations, and how this influence varies by gender.

  1. The first study will be conducted using the method of surveys targeted at a set of active and recently lapsed donors to a public radio station.
  2. The second study would be in a laboratory setting to investigate whether male and female react differently to the social norms created by an experimental scenario, designed to be parallel to the fundraising environment from the first study.

First Study: Field Study – Donor Survey

  • Data collected in the environment of public radio fundraising
  • Surveys were included with the renewal mails and sent to members who would receive the renewals letter during the month of August 2003 (randomly selected)
  • 394 respondents were selected; 168 males and 226 females
  • Three dependent variables  are being examined; the donations in the year preceding and the year following the survey and the average of these two values
  • Results show that men are more influenced by descriptive norms than are women
  • Findings supports the theory of self-focused dominates relation-focused mechanisms
  • Results provides support that the sustaining and creation of self-concepts is the motivation that determine the level of giving in the context of fund raising

Second Study: Experimental Study

  • To examine the influence of social information on descriptive norms and the subsequent effect on contributing behaviour of men and women
  • Descriptive social norms  is being manipulated in this study by providing social information to the participants
  • Social information has been previously shown to influence descriptive social norms (Croson et al., 2009)
  • Two versions of a scenario study are randomly assigned to participants
    •  First scenario, ‘you’ve called the radio station and made a contribution of $25 and in the call, you were told that another station member had contributed only $10 (contributed lesser than the participant, $10 vs $25)
    • Second scenario, the participant was told that another station member had contributed $50 (contributed more than the participant, $50 vs $25)
  • Participants are next asked how much they think and average station listener would contribute and how much they would contribute in the next year
  • Findings shows that descriptive social norms influence contributions overall but this effect is primarily driven by men
  • Women’s decisions are not significantly related to their belief about the social norm
  • Results shown are consistent  and confirms the results obtained in the field survey


The study demonstrates the overall effect of descriptive norms on charity giving is primarily a result of the behaviour of men. Males giving are significantly related to their beliefs about the descriptive social norms which are in contrast with the females. It shows that self-focused mechanics dominates relationship-focused in charitable giving.

My Views

I think that this study can be further carried out with different scenarios to find out more why males are more affected on self-focused mechanics than females to give a better understanding and analysis.  Research can also be carried out to find out what are the factors, mechanics, social norms that will affect females in charitable giving as this study is unable to provide us with.

What do you think of the influences on determining the level of charitable giving of men and women in this study? Are there any other factors which affect the level of charitable giving of different genders?


Croson, R. T., Handy F. & Shang J. (2010). Gendered giving: the influence of social norms on the donation behaviour of men and women. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 15, 199-213.