The covenants we live by: Normative social influences on behavior

Funded by a National Science Foundation EAGER Grant, Erin Krupka’s project examined the effects of social norms on choice and behavior, using her research to bridge gaps in scientific knowledge across social science communities including economics, psychology and sociology. 

Start date: 9/1/2012
End date: 8/31/2013

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Once primarily in the domain of psychology and sociology, the study of norms has expanded in economics over the past decade. Economists have studied norms to explain why some communities can solve common problems while others cannot, why people are willing to punish others for not cooperating in public goods provision, why firms adopt particular price setting practices or do not cut wages during periods of high unemployment, and why countries will adopt different redistribution policies. 

Norms are an important topic of study in economics because they offer a possible explanation for behavior that otherwise appears inconsistent with self-interest. They also provide a mechanism whereby agents can coordinate their behaviors and expectations in interactions where multiple equilibria exist.

Krupka’s research centered around making advances in the study of social influences on choice by using a mixture of exploratory research and formal hypothesis testing of existing and new theories.  Results yielded insights into economic theory of choice in the presence of social norms by distinguishing preferences for norm compliance from social preferences.

The work also sought to characterize a set of practical regularities related to the emergence and transmission of social norms in order to yield feedback to economic models of norms themselves. This research also led to the development of a new tool—a Norms Elicitation Protocol—that social scientists across disciplines, as well as practitioners, can use to identify norms in a range of applications.

The broader impacts of her research will stem from the application of the work, which is of wide-ranging value to those who seek to understand and shape consumer, civic or corporate behaviors.



EAGER: The Covenants We Live By: Normative Social Influences on Behavior, National Science Foundation: $49,992


The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…"