This is Part 1 of the Social Norms, Social Change series. For Part 2, click here. It is strongly recommended that you complete Part 1 before beginning Part 2.

About the course

This course is 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.

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.

Course Certificate:

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Part 1:
Part 2:

Course Overview:

Watch the following video to learn more about the course content: 


Cristina Bicchieri
S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics
Department of Philosophy

Focal Contact Points:

Waithira Gikonyo
Senior Learning Officer, Learning and Knowledge Exchange (LKE)