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Using Norm–Based Appeals to Increase Response Rates in Evaluation Research


A field experiment was conducted to test the effectiveness of norm-based persuasive messages for increasing response rates in online survey research. Participants in an interdisciplinary conference were asked to complete two successive postconference surveys and randomly assigned to one of two groups at each time point. The experimental group received a message asking them to complete an online survey that highlighted a descriptive social norm indicating typical response rates among attendees of prior similar conferences. The control group received a generic request to complete the online survey without any norm-based appeals. As expected, participants receiving a message highlighting the descriptive social norm, when asked to complete an online survey were more likely to comply with the request as compared to those who received the generic message without normative information. Participants receiving a double dose of the descriptive norm treatment at both time points were more likely to complete the second online survey than those who did not receive the descriptive norm intervention at either time point. Implications for future research on evaluation are discussed. © American Evaluation Association 2012.

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