Case Studies

Organ Donation

Research Question: 95% of Americans support organ donation. And yet, only 48% of Americans are registered organ donors. What can we do to get more Americans to register as organ donors?

Hypothesis: We predicted that the use of injunctive norms would increase donor registration rates. While typical social norms marketing focuses on descriptive norms (what other people do), that might be ineffective when so few Americans are registered organ donors. Instead, we chose to explore the impact of injunctive norms (what people think should be done).

Experiment: We partnered with a company to test whether adding social proof messaging of the injunctive norm affects registration rate among their employees. In the control group, subjects received an email asking them to register as an organ donor. In the treatment condition, subjects received an email with the same language, with an added line mentioning that 95% of Americans support organ donation in both the body of the email and the graphic.

Results: We found that those in the injunctive norm condition were almost four times more likely to register for organ donation than those in the control condition were.

Organ Donation

Application: Social proof messaging can be an extremely powerful tool even for important decisions such as whether to become an organ donor or not. This study demonstrated that injunctive norms can work as social proof messaging. This stands in contrast to the more common use of descriptive norm social proof messaging. Because there are so many cases where more people think it is good to do something than actually do it, this study identifies a useful technique to apply in such situations. For example, many moral behaviors (like giving to charity) could prove fruitful contexts for injunctive norm marketing.