University of Twente Student Theses


Social norms to motivate IT use

Schot, Vincent (2011) Social norms to motivate IT use.

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Abstract:Current IT implementations do not realize the expected benefits. One of the major barriers for realizing these benefits are low adoption and underutilization of newly implemented IT systems. There are little effective interventions known that can increase these problematic IT adoption rates. In this study it is explored whether it is possible to design and develop interventions that can help practitioners. Scholars have shown the power of social norm interventions to guide and influence a wide variety of human behaviors. Social norm interventions are used to influence behaviors such as littering, hotel room towel re-use, voting, wood theft, energy consumption, drinking and curbside recycling. So far it was unknown whether these findings can be replicated in an IT setting. If this is the case, the use of social norms might provide an important key for improving current problematic IT system adoption rates The aim of this research was to empirically verify whether social norms can influence IT usage behavior. This serves two purposes: 1) Extending current literature on social norms and IT acceptance by researching whether social norms influence IT usage behavior. 2) Developing an organizational intervention that can be used by IT practitioners. This intervention needs to be empirically tested to proof its usefulness There are two important types of social norms: descriptive norms and subjective norms. Descriptive norms refer to the perception of what is commonly done by others in a given situation. Subjective norms refer to the approval or disapproval of important others in engaging in certain behavior. These two perceptions are important motivators of human behavior. Normative feedback interventions use those social norm mechanisms to deliberately influence human behavior. People are made aware of their deviation from the norm. Subsequently, people will correct their behavior to converge towards the norm. Reported studies on normative feedback interventions allowed us to develop a generic design for an organizational intervention. The design consists of five steps: (1) define IT usage, (2) determine baseline, (3) develop descriptive norm, (4) personalize messages and (5) communicate the norm. I conducted a field experiment to empirically verify a normative feedback intervention for IT use. The experiment aimed to increase the use of a voluntary IT system in a Big Four company. Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group. The intervention group received a normative feedback e-mail that compared their peer usage (descriptive norms) with their own usage behavior. The control group received a similar e-mail without normative feedback. Social Norms to Motivate IT Use Page 8 of 84 The results confirmed that social norms do stimulate the individual use of IT. The intervention group outperformed the control group (35% versus 21%). These results are statistically significant with a reliability of 95% (alpha = 0,05). This effect is in line with the earlier reported social norm interventions in social psychology. Within the results there were notable differences among two subgroups. Prior to the experiment one subgroup had a favorable descriptive norm (61%) towards using the voluntary system, while the other subgroup had not (17%). The result of the intervention group with the favorable descriptive norm (52%) is substantial larger than the effect for the other intervention group (29%). The main conclusion of my research is that social norms influence IT use. With a well-designed e-mail, it is possible to activate the norm mechanisms to motivate the use of a voluntary IT system in a Big Four company. The e-mail contained two descriptive norms with the alignment of the appropriate subjective norm. The e-mail led to the fact that 35% of the intervention group used the system. I could explain the subgroup differences with the actual behavior of similar peers. It seems that the behavior of similar peers moderates the effect size of a social norm intervention. The intervention was more likely to motivate an individual if there were more similar peers in his environment that already use the system. I mentioned three similar colleagues that were using the system for each receiver of the normative feedback e-mail. The quality or similarity of these names did not predict or explain the results itself. I assume that mentioning these colleagues led to the fact that people verify the norm in reality. This is corroborated by the fact that there is a linear correlation between the intervention success and the amount of similar peers in the environment of a person. Further, the field experiment validated the organizational intervention of the generic design mentioned above. Therefore, I can conclude that this generic design can be used by practitioners to develop their own interventions in order to increase IT adoption rates. This study has two important limitations. The first limitation is the rather narrow definition of IT use. IT use in this study referred to updating a profile with resume on a portfolio tool. This definition does not incorporate repeated use or use on a daily basis. The second limitation is that this study is not longitudinal. I do not know what the effects of social norm interventions are for a longer time span. Norms and norm activation need repetition and time to become more prevalent. So it is hard to generalize to arbitrary IT use, but the experiment has proven that normative feedback interventions in an IT setting can give significant results. This result also has implications for the theory of IT acceptance. Evidence from literature as well as this study suggests that descriptive norms should be considered in IT acceptance models. To that end, I propose an update of the so-called TAM2 model for IT acceptance.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
KPMG Advisory NL
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:54 computer science
Programme:Business Information Technology MSc (60025)
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