The effects of social norms on motivation crowding: Experimental evidence from the tibetan plateau

John M. Kerr, Tsering Bum, Maria Knight Lapinski, Rain Wuyu Liu, Zhi Lu, Jinhua Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


A growing literature examines conditions under which financial incentives for behavior change can undermine “crowd out” or reinforce (“crowd in”) other sources of motivation for the behavior in question. Some of this literature points to a potential role of social norms, but it has not attempted to quantify that role. We present an interdisciplinary model from economics and communication science that measures the effects of financial incentives on social norms and their joint effects on behavior, including after incentives have ended. In a framed field experiment with Tibetan herders in Qinghai, China, we find that a temporary payment for participation in a patrol against illegal wildlife trapping reinforces a perceived injunctive norm that this conservation behavior meets with social approval. This norm remains heightened even after the payment has ended, continuing to positively influence the decision to participate in anti-trapping patrols in the experiment. This finding suggests that, under certain circumstances, a carefully framed incentive for conservation behavior can support injunctive norms in favor of conservation behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-454
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of the Commons
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • China
  • Collective action
  • Conservation behavior
  • Payment for ecosystem services
  • Public good experiment
  • Qinghai
  • Sanjiangyuan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of social norms on motivation crowding: Experimental evidence from the tibetan plateau'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this