chapter  4
Goal-Framing Theory and Norm-Guided Environmental Behavior
Pages 18

THE PRECARIOUSNESS OF NORM-GUIDED BEHAVIOR There are at least four processes that make norm-guided behavior itself or its positive collective effects precarious. First, with norms, small numbers often matter. The positive result of norm-guided behavior is a collective good. In many cases this good is highly vulnerable. It can be tainted or even ruined by a relatively small percentage of people who deviate. For example, in a neighborhood, a few people who persistently throw garbage on the sidewalk, or scream during the night, or get drunk sitting on your doorstep, can lower the quality of life for almost everybody else in the neighborhood. In buses and trains, even one person who abuses the conductor or who treats the other passengers to his music or loud cell phone conversation is able to turn the trip into a very unpleasant experience. This also holds for the workplace, for car traffic, and behavior in public places. Deviant behavior of seemingly “nice” people in high positions can have grave consequences for others, as is well known from cases like Enron. Corruption of a few civil servants in state bureaucracies can create havoc for people who need licenses or seek help or justice. This small-number vulnerability also holds for many forms of environmental behavior of individuals and organizations.