To follow or not to follow the herd? Transparency and social norm nudges

Elena Kantorowicz-Reznichenko*, Jaroslaw Kantorowicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
103 Downloads (Pure)


Behavioral interventions in general, and nudges in particular have become in recent years a popular (soft) regulatory instrument all around the world. Despite the excitement around this policy-relevant field, some concerns have been raised. Nudges utilize behavioral biases in order to direct an individual's behavior. People, however, are usually not aware of the fact that such biases are used to influence their behavior. Making nudges transparent is important in democratic societies; yet, this might inhibit their effectiveness. Whether transparency inhibits the effect of a nudge was examined with respect to default nudges. However, this is the first paper to examine the effectiveness of transparent social norm nudges. Using an online experiment, we find that unlike with defaults, where transparency seems not to have inhibitive effects, disclosing the way social norms work and the purpose of using them diminishes the positive social norm effect. By means of heterogeneity analysis, we show that these results (the positive effect of the nudge and the inhibitive influence of transparency) hold only for male participants. Given the proliferation of nudges in public policies around the world, these results call for further research on nudges and transparency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-377
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to IREF and the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (EUR Fellowship) for their support in funding this project. We would like to thank Enrico Colombatto, Robert Dur, Christoph Engel, Klaus Heine, Jurjen Kamphorst, Sophie van der Zee, Peter Wakker and the participants of the European Association of Law and Economics Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel; the Experiments at the Crossroads of Law and Economics Workshop in Rotterdam, The Netherlands; the IREF workshop in Aix‐en‐Provence, France, for their useful comments. In addition, we are grateful to Liam Wells for his editorial assistance with the experimental design. Remaining errors are however ours. Replication files are provided in the supplementary information.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Kyklos published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Research programs

  • SAI 2008-06 BACT


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