greggrs [at] princeton.edu
I am a postdoctoral research associate in the Andlinger Center and Department of Psychology at Princeton University working with Elke Weber. My research is focused on understanding social change using social and cognitive psychology. I completed my PhD at Stanford University in psychology working with Greg Walton, where I investigated how people are influenced by witnessing social change and how this can be incorporated into interventions in social, environmental, and political domains.
My research focuses on psychology and social change, including research on scalable interventions to address social problems related to the environment, health, and social inequity. I examine motivations to change behavior, their cognitive structure, and how can we promote change, including the role of social influence, identity, moral reasoning, and beliefs about whether change is possible. Much of my work explores how learning about trends in norms over time and perceiving others change can catalyze personal change.
I collaborate with non-profit, public, and private organizations, and use national surveys and field studies to develop and assess psychological interventions to meet social and environmental goals. Contact me for collaborations.
Sparkman, G., & Walton, G. M. (2017). Dynamic norms promote sustainable behavior, even if it is counternormative. Psychological Science, 28(11), 1663-1674. (Link | Materials)
Here we introduce “dynamic norms” and demonstrate how people conform to changes in norms over time. We show this can promote counternormative behavior like eating less meat, or boost water saving in a drought.
Sparkman, G., & Walton, G. M. (2019). Witnessing change: Dynamic norms help resolve diverse barriers to personal change. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 82, 238-252. (Link | Materials)
Is social change contagious? Here we show dynamic norms lead people to questions barriers they thought stood in the way of change, and help people quit smoking, improve sleep habits, & support gender equity.
Sparkman, G., & Attari, S. Z. (2020). Credibility, communication, and climate change: How lifestyle inconsistency and do-gooder derogation impact decarbonization advocacy. Energy Research & Social Science, 59, 101290. (Link | Materials)
Should advocates “walk the walk”? We find that peers and especially experts are more credible and persuasive when their advocacy and lifestyles align, so long as they aren’t seen as too extreme.
Sparkman, G., Weitz, E., Robinson, T. N., Malhotra, N., & Walton, G. M. (2020). Developing a Scalable Dynamic Norm Menu-Based Intervention to Reduce Meat Consumption. Sustainability, 12(6), 2453. (Link | Materials)
In this piece, we develop a scalable dynamic norm intervention to be implimented in restuarant menus. We assess effects on over 30,000 food orders at 3 restaurants. We also detail areas for improvement!
Sparkman, G., Howe, L., & Walton, G. How social norms are often a barrier to addressing climate change but can be part of the solution. (2020). Behavioural Public Policy, 1-28. (Link)
Here we discuss why social norms are a uniquely good tool to mobilize action on climate change. We explore how dynamic norms and feelings of togetherness help overcome common hurdles in this context.
Sparkman, G. (2020). Designing Dynamic Norm Interventions: How to Dislodge Problematic Norms and Accelerate Positive Change. In G. Walton & A. Crum (Eds.) Handbook of Wise Interventions: How Social-Psychological Insights Can Help Solve Problems. (Link)
In this chapter I provide a practical guide on how to utilize dynamic norms in interventions to address ongoing social problems.
Sparkman, G., Macdonald, B., Caldwell, K., Kateman, B., Boese, G. (2021). Cut Back or Give it Up? The Effectiveness of Reduce and Eliminate Appeals and Dynamic Norm Messaging to Curb Meat Consumption. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 101592. (Link)
Here we assess dynamic norm appeals in an easy-to-disseminate medium (an op-ed), comparing a message to eat less meat versus one to stop eating meat. We find that dynamic norm appeals to eat less meat are more effective, reducing meat consumed by 7-9% for at least 5 months, and these effects differ based on demographics.
Sparkman, G., Attari, S., Weber, E. (2021). Moderating Spillover: Focusing on Personal Sustainable Behavior Rarely Hinders and Can Boost Climate Policy Support. Energy Research & Social Science, 78, 102150. (Link | Materials)
How can we ensure that taking one climate action doesn't sap motivation for further action? In this paper, we examine how sustainable behavior impacts subsequent climate policy support. We find sustainable behavior rarely hurts policy support, and can even boost policy support if people connect their actions to their values or sense of self.
Sparkman, G., Lee, N. R., & Macdonald, B. N. (2021). Discounting Environmental Policy: The Effects of Psychological Distance Over Time and Space. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 101529. (Link | Materials)
Climate change will impact people near and far, soon and into the distant future. How does this psychological distance impact policy support for issues like mitigating climate change? Here, we map out how people discount the benefits of policies that help those further into the future those who are geographically distant.
Sabherwal, A., Pearson, A., & Sparkman, G. (2021). Anger consensus messaging can enhance expectations for collective action and support for climate mitigation. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 101640. (Link)
What happens when people learn that a growing number of Americans are angry about climate innaction? Here, we find this collective anger consensus message leads people to percieve greater support for climate policies among others, and increases personal levels of support for policies to address climate change.
Cameron, J. R., Rice, D. C., Sparkman, G., & Neville, H. F. (2013). Childhood temperament‐based anticipatory guidance in an HMO setting: A longitudinal study. Journal of Community Psychology, 41(2), 236-248. (Link)
Here we assess effects over two-decade from an intervention on parenting styles for new parents.
Angry about the climate crisis? Research shows that could be a good thing. Grist (2021)
Powers That Be (Research Roundup) National Affairs (2021)
How Redefining ‘Normal’ Can Alter Behavior Fast Company (2020)
Don’t Be Afraid to Virtue Signal — It Can Be a Powerful Tool to Change People’s Minds Time (2020)
In Defense of Carbon Footprints Treehugger (2020)
Why Social Change is Contagious SPSP Character and Context Blog, with Greg Walton (2019)
New Frontiers: The Future of Social Norms ResearchLive (2019)
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Still Matters Slate (2018), with Leor Hackel
Can the Psychological Technique of 'Pre-Conformity' Help Change Our Harmful Behaviors? Pacific Standard (2018)
Three Words That Can Double Your Influence Howard Jacobson's Podcast "Plant Yourself" (2018)
Vegans, You’re Doing it Wrong Medium (2018)
Changing behaviors may be easier when people see norms changing, Stanford research finds Stanford University News (2017)
Empathy and Education: EmotionWise Empathic Accuracy Psychometrics and Online Tools for Educators. GoldenGate Tedx (2011)
Greater Good Quizzes: Psychometrics for Public Use Greater Good Science Center (2011)
Find more of my prior writing at the Greater Good Science Center
I am interested in collaborating on campaigns of change and field experiments to promote environmental sustainability and social equity.
Gregg Sparkman Postdoctoral Research Associate in Psychology Princeton University Andlinger Center 86 Olden St, Princeton, NJ 08540 Office: 609-258-4899 Email: greggrs [at] princeton.edu Twitter: @GreggRSparkman