Predicting social tipping and norm change in controlled experiments

Paper by James Andreoni, Nikos Nikiforakis, and Simon Siegenthaler: “Social tipping—instances of sudden change that upend social order—is rarely anticipated and usually understood only in hindsight. The ability to predict when societies will reach a tipping point has significant implications for welfare, especially when social norms are detrimental. In a large-scale laboratory experiment, we identify a model that accurately predicts social tipping and use it to address a long-standing puzzle: Why do norms sometimes persist when they are detrimental to social welfare? We show that beneficial norm change is often hindered by a desire to avoid the costs associated with transitioning to a new norm. We find that policies that help societies develop a common understanding of the benefits from change foster the abandonment of detrimental norms….(More)”.