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University of Pennsylvania

Social Norms, Social Change I

University of Pennsylvania and Unicef via Coursera


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This is a course on social norms, the rules that glue societies together. It teaches how to diagnose social norms, and how to distinguish them from other social constructs, like customs or conventions. These distinctions are crucial for effective policy interventions aimed to create new, beneficial norms or eliminate harmful ones. The course teaches how to measure social norms and the expectations that support them, and how to decide whether they cause specific behaviors. The course is a joint Penn-UNICEF project, and it includes many examples of norms that sustain behaviors like child marriage, gender violence and sanitation practices. This is Part 1 of the Social Norms, Social Change series. In these lectures, I introduce all the basic concepts and definitions, such as social expectations and conditional preferences, that help us distinguish between different types of social practices like customs, descriptive norms and social norms. Expectations and preferences can be measured, and these lectures explain how to measure them. Measurement is crucial to understanding the nature of the practice you are facing, as well as whether an intervention was or was not successful, and why. In Part 2, we will put into practice all we have learned in Part 1. New! Please use this link for a 30% discount on the recommended book that accompanies this course!


  • Interdependent & Independent Actions + Empirical Expectations
    • Welcome Social Norms, Social Change. This course aims to give you the tools to understand, measure, and change collective practices. This module focuses on two of the basic building blocks the theory of social norms is built on: the distinction between interdependent and independent behavior, and empirical expectations.
  • Normative Expectations + Personal Normative Beliefs
    • This module adds two more of the basic building blocks of the theory: normative expectations and personal normative beliefs. Although both are "normative" — that is, both have a component dealing with a "should" — there are important differences between normative expectations and personal normative beliefs.
  • Conditional Preferences + Social Norms
    • In this module we cover two topics: conditional preferences and social norms. Conditional preferences are the final basic building block of the theory of social norms. After studying all these building blocks, we can finally assemble them to understand what it means for a collective practice to be a social norm.
  • Pluralistic Ignorance + Measuring Norms
    • This module covers two important topics: pluralistic ignorance and norm measurement. Sometimes individuals endorse their social norms, but sometimes they do not. Knowing when a norm is endorsed is crucial for intervention. But how do we know we are dealing with a social norm or whether it's endorsed? Measurement answers that question.

Taught by

Cristina Bicchieri


4.5 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at Coursera based on 2010 ratings

Start your review of Social Norms, Social Change I

  • Linda Saalman
    This first class creates the vocabulary and concept framework to understand social norms, customs, beliefs, expectations, etc, and the tools to measure social norms, etc. The entire matter of how to influence those norms is deferred to a second cour…
  • Dr Ramakrishnappa D C
    Am very intersted to join this course through the online and am so exicted also becouse this is first time in this platform like online course to join class

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