Open online communities rely on social norms for behavior regulation, group cohesion, and sustainability. Research on the role of social norms online has mainly focused on one source of influence at a time, making it difficult to separate different normative influences and understand their interactions. In this study, we use the Focus Theory to examine interactions between several sources of normative influence in a Wikipedia sub-community: local descriptive norms, local injunctive norms, and norms imported from similar sub- communities. We find that exposure to injunctive norms has a stronger effect than descriptive norms, that the likelihood of performing a behavior is higher when both injunctive and descriptive norms are congruent, and that conflicting social norms may negatively impact pro-normative behavior. We contextualize these findings through member interviews, and discuss their implications for both future research on normative influence in online groups and the design of systems that support open collaboration.
To appear in the proceedings of The 21st ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2018).
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