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To follow or not to follow the herd? Transparency and social norm nudges

Elena Kantorowicz‐Reznichenko and Jaroslaw Kantorowicz

Kyklos, 2021, vol. 74, issue 3, 362-377

Abstract: Behavioral interventions in general, and nudges in particular have become in recent years a popular (soft) regulatory instrument all around the world. Despite the excitement around this policy‐relevant field, some concerns have been raised. Nudges utilize behavioral biases in order to direct an individual's behavior. People, however, are usually not aware of the fact that such biases are used to influence their behavior. Making nudges transparent is important in democratic societies; yet, this might inhibit their effectiveness. Whether transparency inhibits the effect of a nudge was examined with respect to default nudges. However, this is the first paper to examine the effectiveness of transparent social norm nudges. Using an online experiment, we find that unlike with defaults, where transparency seems not to have inhibitive effects, disclosing the way social norms work and the purpose of using them diminishes the positive social norm effect. By means of heterogeneity analysis, we show that these results (the positive effect of the nudge and the inhibitive influence of transparency) hold only for male participants. Given the proliferation of nudges in public policies around the world, these results call for further research on nudges and transparency.

Date: 2021
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