Posts tagged “slacktivism”

Did all those avatar changes impact SCOTUS?

Now that we’ve heard from the Supreme Court, we can look back on all the involvement we had, what with updating our profile pictures on every social media service. This article Scientific American (Will changing your Facebook profile picture do anything for marriage equality?) is a really terrific deconstruction of influence. The explanation here of prescriptive norms vs. descriptive ones is very instructive.

One of the big ways that the people around us exert these influences is through the use of norms, those messages that we send out about what’s acceptable, appropriate, and-well, normal. Descriptive norms simply describe the way that things are, whereas prescriptive norms offer a mandate about how things should be. For example, if I said that most college students go to class wearing jeans and sweatshirts, that would be a descriptive norm. If I said that you should wear jeans and a sweatshirt in order to fit in, that would be prescriptive. Quite possibly the most important takeaway point from all of the research that’s been done on norms is just how powerful descriptive norms can be. When people try to change behavior, they often focus on prescriptive norms, telling people what they should do. We often underestimate just how strongly we respond to what other people actually do.


About Steve