Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Alison Harris

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Rights Information

© 2017 Larissa Chern


With workplace disasters in developing countries increasingly in the news, a major question is how to encourage consumers to use corporate social responsibility as a criterion in purchasing. Distinct from environmental concerns, social responsibility is defined here with respect to the humanitarian aspects of corporate practice, including fair wages and working conditions, equitable treatment of the disadvantaged, and restriction of child labor. Although the idea of socially responsible consumption (SRC) was first identified over forty years ago, most recent research on changing consumption habits focuses specifically on environmentally responsible consumption (ERC). Combining the psychological concept of social norms with economic emphasis on choice framing, research in behavioral economics has suggested that ERC can be promoted by “nudges,” low-cost initiatives that alter the decision environment to favor specific options. Here, we provide an overview of the existing literature on nudges and consumer choice, including the role of social norms, as well as other factors involved in successful social messaging. Previous research on ERC suggests that social norm nudges may result in higher rates of energy conservation, recycling and reuse, and purchasing of ecologically-friendly products. Applying these findings to the domain of SRC, we propose a set of possible interventions to increase consumer attention to social responsibility, highlighting the distinguishing roles of empathy and targeted demographic appeals in nudging consumers towards social change.