Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics Receives $3 Million Grant to Study Social Norms, Trust, and Poverty in the U.S.

Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics

The Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics has received a combined grant of $3 million from the John Templeton Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation to support a three-year research project that will examine the social and behavioral dimensions associated with poverty.

The Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics aims to support positive behaviors on a global scale, across both informal and organizational settings. It partners with organizations around the world by leveraging its expertise in measuring behavior, analyzing behavioral data, and identifying systematic behavioral drivers.

“The absence of financial resources is closely linked with deficits in other types of capital, including human capital, social capital, and health capital,” says Cristina Bicchieri, Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics and Director of the Center. “Building these other forms of capital, which encompass factors such as education, skills, networks, relationships, and well-being, is essential for individuals to be able to permanently escape poverty.”

The grant will allow the center to conduct local pilots and a national measurement of local beliefs, expectations, norms, preferences, and trust levels among rural and urban poor populations across different areas of the United States. The resulting information will give a unique insight into what makes a community resilient and which attitudes and behaviors could play an important role in escaping poverty, which in turn will allow them to suggest promising and feasible interventions to moderate or change these social dimensions across different groups.

The project will be headed by Bicchieri, a world-renowned specialist in the field of behavioral and social norms measurement and change. She is also a professor philosophy and psychology and a professor of legal studies at the Wharton School. Co-principal investigators are Enrique Fatas, a professor of practice in Behavioral and Decision Sciences, and Kevin Vallier, an associate professor of philosophy at Bowling Green State University.

The John Templeton Foundation is funding $2.5 million of the grant. The Templeton Foundation supports research and catalyzes conversations that inspire people with awe and wonder. It funds work on subjects ranging from black holes and evolution to creativity, forgiveness, and free will. It also encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, theologians, and the public at large. The foundation’s aspiration is to help people create lives of meaning and purpose and to become a global catalyst for discoveries that contribute to human flourishing.

The remainder of the funds come from the Charles Koch Foundation, which partners with social entrepreneurs to remove the barriers that prevent people from reaching their potential. The foundation does this by supporting research exploring the key issues of society and funding innovations in postsecondary education, moving society toward mutual benefit, where people succeed by helping others improve their lives.


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