Motivating the adoption of new community-minded behaviors: An empirical test in Nigeria

Abstract

Social scientists have long sought to explain why people donate resources for the good of a community. Existing explanations do not fully account for why people adopt novel community-minded behaviors, which may carry special costs and risks. In a field experiment in Nigeria, we tested two campaigns that encouraged people to try reporting corruption by text message. Psychological theories about how to shift perceived norms and how to channel behavioral momentum drove the design of each campaign. The first, a film featuring actors reporting corruption and the second, a mass text message reducing the effort required to report, caused a total of 1,181 people in 106 communities to text, including 241 people who sent concrete corruption reports. Psychological theories of social norms and behavior change can illuminate the early stages of the evolution of cooperation and collective action.

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