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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Social Norms, Social Change I by University of Pennsylvania

2,010 ratings

About the Course

This is a course on social norms, the rules that glue societies together. It teaches how to diagnose social norms, and how to distinguish them from other social constructs, like customs or conventions. These distinctions are crucial for effective policy interventions aimed to create new, beneficial norms or eliminate harmful ones. The course teaches how to measure social norms and the expectations that support them, and how to decide whether they cause specific behaviors. The course is a joint Penn-UNICEF project, and it includes many examples of norms that sustain behaviors like child marriage, gender violence and sanitation practices. This is Part 1 of the Social Norms, Social Change series. In these lectures, I introduce all the basic concepts and definitions, such as social expectations and conditional preferences, that help us distinguish between different types of social practices like customs, descriptive norms and social norms. Expectations and preferences can be measured, and these lectures explain how to measure them. Measurement is crucial to understanding the nature of the practice you are facing, as well as whether an intervention was or was not successful, and why. In Part 2, we will put into practice all we have learned in Part 1. New! Please use this link for a 30% discount on the recommended book that accompanies this course!

Top reviews


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Helpful framework for determining how to shift social norms. The detail in which the instructor teases out the nuanced ways to assess why individuals act the way they do is very helpful


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It's a challenging but fulfilling course that enables you to fully understand the world a little bit better. Make sure to take notes, plenty of notes if you have no memory like me!

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1 - 25 of 508 Reviews for Social Norms, Social Change I

By Patience E

Mar 6, 2019

This course will open your eyes to different behavioural patterns that human engage in, teach how about the suppossed mudane but important things in our society and also how to carry out a research.

By Charlie J

May 26, 2017

This course was a very tough slog for me.

Christina is a philosopher and theorist who spends a lot of time categorizing human behavior in the context of UNICEF behavior modification schemes. I was interested to learn more about FGM and open defecation, as these are two social norms prevalent in Africa, where I live. The theoretical ontology of group behaviors was thorough. I appreciated learning about survey techniques such as vignettes that can be used to access beliefs and behaviors "in the wild," but I must say that it was difficult to maintain my interest as we seemed to circle around over and over again to various "expectations." Perhaps the second course in the series will contain more practical content.

The video content with embedded questions is a sophisticated method of tracking attention, and I found that answering the in-video questions kept me engaged.

The comments by the other participants were somewhat uninspired.

I appreciated the glossary of terms in the resource pack, although there was no definition of a "prudential normative belief" which was mentioned several times in the videos.

The video quality was good, and production values excellent.

It would have been nice to have some of the flowcharts provided in pdf form for later review as a resource.

By Kelvin L

Jun 26, 2019

the course worth the time spent as there a lot of take away that are basically practical in our communities. I think in a whole I have learnt a lot and hope to undertake similar courses in due time

By Joana C

Aug 5, 2019

Achei o curso muito interessante e importante para entender a minha area de trabalho com certeza abso;uta irei implementar os conhecimentos adquiridos e estou pronta para entrar na 2 parte do curso

By Aswathy C

Jan 25, 2019

I really liked the course. I was enlightening. I have a simple suggestion. Whenever we do the test, after we pass, we do not get to see the answers for the question that we have not answered correctly. As we cannot repeat the test that we have passed, it will be good if you can tell us the answer for the question we have wronged. Thank you.

By Isabella G

Feb 5, 2019

The course is really interesting and helpful in identify the key components of norms and how to measure them to trigger a change. The videos are clear and the readings are complementary to videos. However, the last lecture is too long, in my opinion, and it would have been more feasible if splitted on two weeks. Moreover, there is scarce or no feedback, both on interventions on the forum and after the quizzes. I understand a person can undertake the quizzes several times, I would rather suggest to set a given number of attempts and after that a feedback on the mistakes, or some kind of guidance in understanding the errors. Overall, a very useful course. I will definitively take the second part!

By Karthigeyan

Mar 9, 2018

The course was informative. It showed how challenging is to bring a social change. And it also shed some light on the kind of work Unicef carries on. I would recommend the course to anyone who is interested in bringing out a social change or in knowing how social norms function.

By Zhixian Z

Nov 10, 2018

Too much overlapping - can be good to help memorizing those complex concepts, but also annoying a bit. It can be helpful to give summary diagrams at the beginning to let the audience have a first impression of the knowledge tree.

By Lain I

May 16, 2021

good explanation of the ideas, but it frames them from a colonialist perspective where the goal of social theory is to 'domesticate' people of other countries. a focus on changing harmful norms in more industrialized countries - such as the norm of teaching one's children religion, or the norm of harshly punishing people whos actions are believed (whether truthfully or not) to have caused harm, would be better.

By ZIta D

Sep 8, 2019

Ms Bicchieri is a fantastic teacher. Easy to follow, plenty examples and practical suggestions. It is brilliant we could see videos from the field describing a particular situation.Thoroughly enjoyed the course, thank you so much! this course should be an essential requirement for all sorts of community work, even when it is volunteer work. Understanding our own communities and practices can help us be non judgemental when we observe practices we personally disagree with. Then we can try and use some of the suggestions to educate all, with special attention to the most influential members of the reference network who could introduce positive changes. This in turn makes everyone's lives better. Thank you for a wonderful insight.

By Rajarajeshwari S

May 8, 2020

I love how simplified the concepts were for anyone to understand topics that have taken so long to research upon. Thank you for constructing such a well-rounded course, it was great fun to stduy!

By Byunggyu P

Aug 29, 2018

The course systematically delves into the elements that constitute our actions and the motivations behind them. It not just explains what social norm is but also teaches ways to diagnose it properly and eventually change it for the better. It's fortunate beyond belief that Prof. Bicchieri of University of Pennsylvania, together with Coursera, has determined to open this great resource to the public nearly for free: The content, obviously made possible through years of toils, agonies, and experiences of Dr. Bicchieri, is significantly useful and critically insightful to anyone interested in human behaviours, community development and social change. Beware, however, that the contents within the course aren't well organised: You'll surely have to neatly put these lessons into the right place on your own for easier digestion. Moreover, I was less satisfied with the examples Prof. Bicchieri uses to explain the concepts. I felt there's much space for its improvement as the examples mentioned are more often confusing than not.

By Jigar A

Feb 3, 2018

Found the course structure and content quite impressive. Seemingly (emphatically) tuned lecture speed helped a lot in grasping the ideas with moderate efforts as well as keeping up the pace with the course. Diagrams of various processes, real-life perspectives' sharing and context-specific concise notations from the reference material gave the learning path a unique landscape.

By Dorothy H

Sep 11, 2016

First: University of Pennsylvania and we still have to deal with a heavy accent?

Second: Couldn't tell if all the vocab gone over repeatedly was standard or made up by the prof.

Third: Stilted, repetitive and boring teaching style.

By Omowunmi O

Dec 20, 2019

The course Social Norms, Social change 1 -has helped open my mind and intellect to the totality of collective behaviors that are good, acceptable and outright bad. It helps me know when a system has intentionally engaged in a bad social norm and can either allow such a norm to thrive by developing it further or by abandoning same. A social norm is a rule of behavior such that people have a conditional preference for following it. Also, pluralistic ignorance exists when personal normative beliefs are not in line with their normative expectations and this is how bad norms often can survive. Furthermore, in the case of social norms, we can define pluralistic ignorance in such a manner that 1. Norm consistent behaviour is observed, 2. infer that people endorse the norm, even if they do not. 3. There is no transparent communication. Most systems that we find ourselves in especially in the sub-saharan Africa are usually of a toxic nature and abandonment of such toxic environment will require an appropriate intervention procedure. I recommend this course for every human being on the face of the earth. - Omowunmi Olugbenle

By Monica C

Jan 12, 2018

The concepts brought are very useful and the lecturer was able to explain clearly and highlight/emphasis areas that are commonly misunderstood. I find that the term social norms is bandied around very frequently and the public at large only have a general and broad idea of what this means. But now I understand that not every collective behaviour is a social norm as some collective behaviours are independent of social expectations and as such, are not social norms.

Especially helpful are the diagnostic charts and tools that are presented to help us differentiate the terms and concepts and apply them. Also helpful are the nuances in asking questions and how we can reduce social desirability bias.

Would highly recommend this course, esp for policy makers who need to implement programmes for social change. I work in government, and I think this course is so useful for me, even as I consider what my department can do to nudge change.

Thank you!

By Abigail A

Aug 17, 2019

I loved taking Social Norms, Social Change I. My professor Cristina Bicchieri was completely amazing at teaching "Critical Analysis" about culture in other nations. What at first seemed so easy to overlook was actually really put in a more direct way. In end, I wanted to stand up and stop social norms in other cultures doing wrong to young woman, and move towards social change for young woman to educate. She is an amazing gentlewoman worth every minute to listen as she is clear in her mind about what is happening in other Nations. Yay!

By Miriam S

Mar 19, 2018

It's a great intro into the definitions around social norms to understand what can bring social change about. I think it is also just useful for understanding our behaviour as humans, why we do things and not others and what motivates our behaviour even though we sometimes might not actually agree with it. It is presented in an easy-to-study way with good reading material from the course presenter.


Dec 29, 2017

Acting to live in a better world is an important value to me. The framework presented in the course brought to light, in well produced lectures, many components crucial in our behavior. The more importante examples would be, in my opinion, the reference network, normative expectations, conditiontal preference, pluralistic ignorance and social norms. Looking forward to the follow-up course.

By Ratnaja G

Mar 4, 2017

Thank you Dr.Biccheiri for taking me through this course. I am involved in a Sanitation and Hygiene behavior baseline survey in Schools in India and I found this course relevant to my understanding of how behavior is an outcome of norms that arise in turn from empirical and normative expectations. However, I am still left wondering if defecation in the open is a social norm in India.

By Dr. M S

Aug 2, 2019

Thank you Prof. Cristina Bicchieri for well explaining the course on Social Norms, Social Change I. After completion of Social Norms, Social Change , I have enrolled into Social Norms, Social Change II for more learning. I have leaned few new concepts related to social norms. I am thankful to Coursera, PENN and UNICEF for designing this type of course.

By Suryansh C

Jan 10, 2018

A fine course to equip volunteer for better service of community. The only problem is with the price for the certificate. For a high school student who even uses his pocket money for volunteering Rs. 1900/- is a huge money and will hinder the legality of the volunteer to show his command over the problems facing the community.

By Judy G

Jan 9, 2017

Really enjoyed this course, well structured and a good mix of videos and text to read. Only suggestions for improvement would be a) fourth week videos and text got very long and b) having a glossary to refer to that defines all the terms and includes examples (as sometimes got confusing all the different terminology used)

By Samuel S R E

Dec 22, 2019

It’s a wonderful course and a wonderful opportunity. Coursera made the international universities available across the globe and brought them within the reach of common man. Now, I feel that the world is thrown open for me! My sincere gratitude to the Coursera and all the participating universities and institutions.

By Shahrzad K

Aug 18, 2019

The content was not easy, at least for me with a different background, but, it was taught in a way that anyone could understand. It helped me a lot in my activities and understanding the shortages which used to led me to failures in changing special behavior. I surely will go through the content over and over again.