Trendsetters elude norms and affect change in society, said Cristina Bicchieri, guest lecturer at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies. The talk on Friday was part of the Citizenship Speaker Series.
Bicchieri defines “trendsetters” as those who are willing to be the first to act on change and “are often peripheral members of society.”
Bicchieri is a professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and also serves as the S.J.P. Harvie Chair of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics.
Bicchieri, who is also a professor in the legal studies department of the Wharton School of Business, began her presentation discussing why she became passionate in learning more about trendsetters.
“My original interest actually stemmed from my interest in social norms,” she said.
Bicchieri said some regularities are behaviors that we adopt and continue to engage in, regardless of what people think. She further shared that there is a sense that everyone ought to behave in an appropriate way.
“If we expect this generalized reproach, it will be enough to keep up all obeying the rule,” she said.
The presentation then shifted to a discussion about tipping points and the process of how social norms change.
“At some point, a few individuals will be convinced, for example, that beating their wives is not the best way to fulfill deeply held values,” Bicchieri said. “They may decide to abandon the practice, which would cause a gradual change in attitudes. If this minority grows, it will reach a tipping point.”
Kristen Darah, a third-year in finance, attended the lecture series and said she believed Bicchieri was informative.
“Being a finance major, I don’t usually think about what kind of behaviors it takes to create a trendsetter,” Darah said. “We overlook why we behave the way we do, but Bicchieri’s presentation made a lot of sense.”
Bicchieri was born in Milan, where she received her laurea, a post-secondary academic degree in Italy, in philosophy, summa cum laude, from the University of Milan. She received her doctorate’s degree in philosophy of science at Cambridge University and also taught at Barnard College, Columbia University, University of Notre Dame and Carnegie Mellon University.
Bicchieri has published more than 100 articles and several books, according to the Office of International Affairs website.
The Mershon Center Speaker Series hosts a series of different topics every month, including a Globalization Speaker Series, National Security Speaker Series and Global Migration Speaker Series.