Unpopular social norms are shared behavioral rules which run against the preferences of its subjects, or at least a large number of its subjects. Bicchieri suggested in her 2009 book an explanation of the phenomenon based on pluralistic ignorance, also offering a first tentative model of the process. The model provided here adds substantively to the details and explanatory power of a pluralistic ignorance-based approach to unpopular norms.
It does so by endogenizing the agents’ limited access to behavioral information by situating them on a network, where they follow a simple heuristic of conformism to choose their behavior, thereby contributing to the implied shared belief in a norm.
The model reproduces not only the appropriate distribution of behavioral expectations from a uniform distribution of preferences, but also exhibits dynamic features of unpopular norms and pluralistic ignorance that have been observed, in particular the lagging of the distribution of behavioral expectations behind a changing profile of preferences in the population.
Beyond that, the model can be easily extended to include, for example, central influences on behavioral expectation, as they are represented for example by mass media or government propaganda.