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Behavioural Economics: Descriptive Norms – UX Planet

Behavioural Economics: Descriptive Norms - UX Planet


In psychological terms, these influencers of our behaviour are referred to as Norms. There are a couple, but we will use only these four in the article — descriptive, injunctive, implicit and explicit norms — and how to apply them.

Descriptive norm

You’re watching a concert and as the musicians stop playing, everyone else stands up and starts clapping. You most likely will stand up and begin clapping too. Why? Because that’s what everyone else is doing: It’s the descriptive norm.

Injunctive norm

You leave the concert and walk into a library. You automatically lower your voice to a whisper as you ask the librarian for directions to a particular section. Why? Because that’s what you’re supposed to do in a library: It’s the injunctive norm.

Implicit Norms

These are not openly stated. They are not formally codified but emerge socially through the day-to-day interactions of the group. For example, a TV infomercial writer thought they were doing an excellent job for their show by saying “operators standing by”. The thought was that customers would recognise they won’t have to wait, so the experience would be painless.

Image source: 42courses.com

But, this method didn’t work. Subconsciously, it implied the company was operating below capacity and so must not be popular. To correct this, they changed the line to “If operators are busy, please call again”. After this change, the number of phone calls they received went up. They used implicit norms to give the impression that lots of people were ringing in.

Explicit Norms

These are written or spoken openly. For example, “94% of our customers rate our service as excellent” is a way of explicitly communicating that other people have bought a certain product and are satisfied with it. This way creating brand trust.



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