Disaster preparedness: Will a “norm nudge” sink or swim?

Article by Jantsje Mol: “In these times of unprecedented climate change, one critical question persists: how do we motivate homeowners to protect their homes and loved ones from the ever-looming threat of flooding? This question led to a captivating behavioral science study, born from a research visit to the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center in 2019 (currently the Wharton Climate Center). Co-founded and co-directed by the late Howard Kunreuther, the Center has been at the forefront of understanding and mitigating the impact of natural disasters. In this study, we explored the potential of social norms to boost flood preparedness among homeowners. While the results may not align with initial expectations, they shed light on the complexities of human behavior, the significance of meticulous testing, and the enduring legacy of a visionary scholar.

The Power of Social Norms

Before we delve into the results, let’s take a moment to understand what social norms are and why they matter. Social norms dictate what is considered acceptable or expected in a given community. A popular behavioral intervention based on social norms is a norm-nudge: reading information about what others do (say, energy saving behavior of neighbors or tax compliance rates of fellow citizens) may adjust one’s own behavior closer. Norm-nudges are cheap, easy to implement and less prone to political resistance than traditional interventions such as taxes, but they might be ineffective or even backfire. Norm-nudges have been applied to health, finance and the environment, but not yet to the context of natural disaster risk-reduction…(More)”.

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