Can social norms overcome a public good dilemma? The case of organ procurement

Höglinger, Marc (19 August 2016). Can social norms overcome a public good dilemma? The case of organ procurement (Unpublished). In: 6th Joint Japan-US Conference on Mathematical Sociology and Rational Choice. Seattle, WA. 19.08.2016.

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Normative influence and, more specifically, descriptive norms (Bicchieri 2006, Cialdini 1998) are powerful forces in shaping individual’s behavior in situations where private and collective interest clash. Various experimental studies have shown that individuals can be made to act more or less prosocial by changing their expectations about what other people do in the same situation (e.g. Schultz et al. 2007, Diekmann, Przepiorka and Rauhut 2015). I apply the so-called descriptive norms messaging approach to a prototypical social dilemma of high substantial relevance: the procurement of donor organs and its underlying micro-level decision problem, that is, individuals’ (not) consenting to post-mortem organ donation. Donor organ shortage is a pervasive problem in Western countries and a main cause is that too few people grant permission for post-mortem organ donation. In order to test whether social norms influence donation consent decisions, I assigned subjects to different descriptive norm messages regarding the consent rate in the population and subsequently elicited their own consent. Results show that a strong descriptive norm message substantially increased stated consent for subjects without a donor card, whereas donor card holders remained unaffected.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Höglinger, Marc


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 310 Statistics




Marc Höglinger

Date Deposited:

28 Jun 2017 12:52

Last Modified:

28 Jun 2017 12:52

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