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Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

How Governments, Businesses, and Non-Profits Change Behavior

01:090:294:05 Index# 13383
Professor Hana Shepherd, SAS - Sociology
M 10:55A - 12:15P
TH 10:55A - 12:15P
Hickman Hall, Rm. 131
Douglass/Cook Campus


Course WILL count for major and minor credit in Sociology

Everywhere we look, government officials and policy makers, non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, philanthropists, business organizations, and social scientists are engaged in deliberate projects to change the behavior of groups and populations. As opposed to attempts to influence individuals to do something once, or initiatives that only incidentally have an impact on behavior, in this class we will examine intentional attempts to change behavior in a sustained or chronic way. These different groups of people attempting to influence behavior often employ very different assumptions about human behavior and why people change their behavior; their attempts are sometimes effective, sometimes ineffective, and sometimes they even backfire with serious consequences. This class will analyze these attempts to change behavior—both current and historical— by looking at the methods used to change behavior with respect to poverty, conflict, education, politics, health, finance, culture and more. We will analyze how these attempts to change behavior draw on coercion and power, incentives and motivations, information and education, social norms, nudges and insights from behavioral economics, or relational approaches. Why do some interventions work better than others? When is success specific to a context and when is it replicable across contexts? We will also discuss when these attempts at behavior change are considered legitimate and when they are considered illegitimate.

HANA SHEPHERD is an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Shepherd teaches classes in interventions and social change, organizations, and culture. She studies how social networks, social norms, culture, and organizations facilitate or impede social change. Her current projects are based on an intervention and research program— the Roots Program— that used a field experiment and longitudinal social network measures in 56 New Jersey middle schools to examine how to improve school climate in terms of peer harassment and conflict.


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