A Comparison of Two Researches on Norm Conformity

The present article reviews and compares two empirical research articles about norm conformity: Article 1 was authored by Pool and Schwegler (2007); Article 2 was authored by Stapel, Joly, and Lindenberg (2010). Both researches investigated why people conformed to social norms but each research had different emphasis: Article 1 emphasized on people’s motives and Article 2 focused on norm relevance. These two articles are compared by their introductions, purposes of the study, research questions, literature reviews, sample populations, study limitations, results, conclusions, and suggested topics for future study.

Comparison of Introductions and Purposes

The introduction of Article 1 cited social norms defined as “rules and standards that are understood by members of a group” (Cialdini & Trost, 1998). Authors introduced controversial results in previous studies about how social norms predicted behavior. In the introduction of Article 2, authors summarized the rationale of their research and presented research questions and hypotheses. Researchers introduced the concept that people and social norms are linked together and social norms “regulate interactions between people” (Stapel, Joly, & Lindenberg, 2010).

The research purpose in Article 1 was to examine multiple motives for norm conformity. Authors explained that less research had been devoted to why people conformed to norms with differentiated motives. The research in Article 2 aimed to investigate environmental conditions for raising social norm relevance. Researchers assumed that the cognitive accessibility of the construct ‘people’ could elicit norm-relevant interpretations. Authors of both articles provided strong justifications for their studies by identifying gaps in current research.

Comparison of Research Questions

Authors of Article 1 asked what motivated people to conform norms and if changing situational contexts could alter people’s motives. To answer the questions, researchers administered one survey to measure participants’ motivational reasons and a follow-up survey to assess performance of target behaviors. In Article 2, researchers asked how people made environment norm-relevant and if an environment could raise social norm relevance. Questions in Article 2 were related to that in Article 1 because the studied factors were in the category of ‘other-related’ motives studied in Article 1.

Comparison of Literature Reviews

Article 1 cited 45 literatures and Article 2 referenced 30 literatures. Both articles reviewed a previous research about a focus theory of normative conduct studied by Ciadini, Reno, and Kallgren (1990). Common authors cited by both articles include I. Ajzen, S. Chaiken, R. B. Cialdini, and M. Sherif.

Authors of Article 1 reviewed the theory of reasoned action (TRA) by Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) and identified limitations of TRA. The literature review showed insufficient research on multiple reasons for norm conformity. A new multiple-motive model was proposed to improve TRA and address the research gap. Researchers in Article 2 reviewed several literatures regarding significant others and explained that the normative expectations of significant others were strong predictors of behavior (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). A research gap was identified as lack of systematic research on environment-relevant normative thinking.

Comparison of Sample Populations

Researchers in Article 1 presented 2 studies. The sample population for Study 1 consisted of 681 college students with 42% of male and 58% of female. The modal age was 19 ranging from 17 to 25. The sample population for Study 2 contained 127 college students. The sample of study 2 was divided into two sessions. Females comprised 73% in the first session and 75% in the second session.

Article 2 also included 2 studies. The sample population of Study 1 had 56 undergraduate students. The sample population of Study 2 contained 78 undergraduate students. This article did not provide age and gender information for the sample. The sample size in Article 2 was significantly smaller than that in Article 1.

Comparison of Limitations

Researchers in both articles exerted self-reporting questionnaires for data collection. This was the common limitation for both researches. The main concern on self-report methodology was the accuracy of the sample data. Besides self-reporting, another limitation in Article 2 might be its small sample size.

Comparison of Results and Conclusions

Article 1 showed that all correlations among attitude, intention, behavior, and three measures of social norms were positive and significant. The results presented that norms and attitudes had an impact on behavior through the mediator behavioral intention. Authors of Article 1 concluded that the multiple-motive model of normative impact predicted behavior better than the standard TRA did and the situational factors could alter the relative importance of the three motives of the model.

Article 2 showed that people perceived importance of general norms and tended to conform when they established the cognitive accessibility of significant others. The main finding of the research was that the perceived importance of environment-relevant norms could increase considerably when environments were perceived and interpreted with a people-focus. Researchers concluded that the people-focus perception made people think and act normatively.

Comparison of Suggested Topics for Future Study

In Article 1, authors suggested using the multiple-motive model to investigate potential conflict among the motives in future studies. They also suggested further research on the “dynamic relationship between one’s motives for norm conformity and the situational context in which those norms occur” (Pool & Schwegler, 2007). Authors in Article 2 mentioned that it was uncertain whether people would conform to norms in less controlled saturations therefore a future study could be a research on many factors of these situations “such as the costs of complying with or deviating from the norms” (Stapel, Joly, & Lindenberg, 2010).


Both researches bridged the research gap and made contributions to the understanding of norm conformity. The research in Article 2 was a further approval of the multiple-motive model proposed in Article 1. In Article 1, researchers argued that the motives for norm conformity were accuracy, self-related, or other-related. Article 2 showed that mentally presenting others could motivate people to conform the library norm, which aligned to Article 1 showing a concern with others as a motive of other-related. These two articles presented consistent and correlated outcomes.


Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Cialdini, R. B., Reno, R. R., & Kallgren, C. A. (1990). A focus theory of normative conduct: Recycling the concept of norms to reduce littering in public places. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 1015–1026.

Cialdini, R. B., & Trost, M. (1998). Social influence: Social norms, conformity, and compliance. In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (4th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 151–192). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior: An introduction to theory and research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Pool, G. J., & Schwegler, A. F. (2007). Differentiating among motives for norm conformity. Basic And Applied Social Psychology, 29(1), 47-60. doi:10.1080/01973530701330983

Stapel, D. A., Joly, J. F., & Lindenberg, S. M. (2010). Being there with others: How people make environments norm-relevant. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 49(1), 175-187. doi:10.1348/000712609X436453