The Influence of Social Norms on Consumer Behavior: A Meta-Analysis Articles uri icon



publication date

  • October 2021

start page

  • 98

end page

  • 120


  • 3


  • 86

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-2429

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1547-7185


  • Social norms shape consumer behavior. However, it is not clear under what circumstances social norms are more versus less effective in doing so. This gap is addressed through an interdisciplinary meta-analysis examining the impact of social norms on consumer behavior across a wide array of contexts involving the purchase, consumption, use, and disposal of products and services, including socially approved (e.g., fruit consumption, donations) and disapproved (e.g., smoking, gambling) behaviors. Drawing from reactance theory and based on a cross-disciplinary data set of 250 effect sizes from research spanning 1978¿2019 representing 112,478 respondents from 22 countries, the authors examine the effects of five categories of moderators of the effectiveness of social norms on consumer behavior: (1) target behavior characteristics, (2) communication factors, (3) consumer costs, (4) environmental factors, and (5) methodological characteristics. The findings suggest that while the effect of social norms on approved behavior is stable across time and cultures, their effect on disapproved behavior has grown over time and is stronger in survival and traditional cultures. Communications identifying specific organizations or close group members enhance compliance with social norms, as does the presence of monetary costs. The authors leverage their findings to offer managerial implications and a future research agenda for the field.


  • Economics
  • Environment


  • cultural influence meta-analysis reactance social approval social influence social marketing social norm social norms marketing