This experiment builds on the results of Tankard & Paluck (2017) and re-examines the finding that court decisions shift perceived societal norms but not personal attitudes under the context of a new court case. It was hypothesized that the 2019 Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard federal court decision, which addressed whether Asian-Americans were being treated fairly during Harvard’s undergraduate admission process, would have a significant impact on perceived societal norms, but not on personal attitudes. 123 participants were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. These participants responded to three waves of surveys, one wave prior to the court decision and two waves following the decision. The results of this study indicate that neither perceived status quo norms nor personal attitudes regarding race-blind admissions significantly changed based on the SFFA v. Harvard federal court decision, although there was a nonsignificant shift in perceived status quo norms that matched the pattern seen in the results of Tankard & Paluck (2017).
About This Project
My experiment builds on the results that the SCOTUS decision regarding gay marriage changed perceived social norms in favor of gay marriage, but did not affect personal attitudes. My hypothesis is SFFA v. Harvard, which addresses whether Asian-Americans are treated fairly during the college application process, will have a significant impact on perceived societal norms, but not on personal norms.
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What is the context of this research?
In 2017, researchers measuring the impact of the 2015 Supreme Court case regarding gay marriage found that perceived social norms changed in response to the decision, although personal norms did not. More broadly, that study sought to better understand whether certain factors, such as institutional decisions, have a significant impact on perceived social norms. My study explores whether the same effect is found with a different case, the SFFA v. Harvard federal court case, regarding whether Asian-Americans are treated fairly during the college application process.
What is the significance of this project?
Social norm experiments, such as this one, allow researchers and policymakers to better understand which sources influence perceived norms, and how significant of an impact each of these channels have on individuals’ perceived norms. Perceived social norms have been shown to impact personal behavior. Therefore, the manipulation of perceived norms has the potential to change personal behavior. This experiment will provide insight as to whether institutional decisions significantly alter perceived norms, which would imply that the manipulation of institutional decisions either would or would not impact personal behavior.
What are the goals of the project?
The first wave of surveys will be sent out before the SFFA v. Harvard decision is announced. The next wave of surveys will be sent out within a week of the decision being announced. The third wave will be sent out 2-3 weeks after wave two.
The participants for this study will include a random sample of Americans, recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk, as well as a group of teachers. The final sample size is estimated to be 200 Mechanical Turk users and 50 teachers.
The results of this study can be used to better understand the impact of an institutional decision on perceived norms. I hypothesize that the results will be in agreement with the 2017 study that found that institutional decisions significantly impact perceived norms.
For the Wave One survey, 500 participants will be each be compensated 45¢.
For the Wave Two and Three surveys, 250 participants are anticipated, based on the 50% retention rate for Tankard & Paluck (2017). Participants will be compensated 80¢ for Wave Two and Three Surveys.
Participant data can only be used if all three surveys are completed, therefore participants are given a $1 bonus for completing all three surveys.
Data collection from the 200 Mechanical Turk participants and 50 teachers will span from early February to 3-4 weeks after the SFFA v. Harvard decision is announced. The first survey will be sent out in early February and the timing of the 2nd and 3rd surveys depends on the date that the decision comes out.
Following data collection, the results will be analyzed during late spring and summer.
Final data will be presented by Fall 2019.
Feb 13, 2019
Mar 01, 2019
Send out Wave One Survey
Apr 01, 2019
Send out Wave Two Survey
Apr 19, 2019
Send out Wave Three Survey
Sep 30, 2019
Meet the Team
I am currently a student at Princeton High School in New Jersey. I am a third year member of my school's research program which allows a select group of students to explore any field of science that is of interest to them. My projects explore the topics of shifting social norms as well as media coverage of genocides.
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