Regime design choices in international law turn on empirical claims about how states behave and under what conditions their behavior changes. Substantial empirical evidence suggests three distinct mechanisms whereby states and institutions might influence the behavior of other states: coercion, persuasion, and acculturation. Several structural impediments preclude effective implementation of coercion- and persuasion-based regimes in human rights law--yet these models of social influence inexplicably predominate in international legal studies. In this Article, we first describe in some detail the salient conceptual features of each mechanism of social influence. We then link each of the identified mechanisms to specific regime design characteristics--identifying several ways in which acculturation might occasion a rethinking of fundamental regime design problems in human rights law. Through a systematic evaluation of three design problems--conditional membership, precision of obligations, and enforcement methods--we elaborate an alternative way to conceive of regime design. We maintain that (1) acculturation is a conceptually distinct social process through which state behavior is influenced; and (2) the regime design recommendations issuing from this approach defy conventional wisdom in international human rights scholarship. This exercise not only recommends reexamination of policy debates in human rights law, it also provides a conceptual framework within which the costs and benefits of various design principles might be assessed. Our aim is to improve the understanding of how norms operate in international society with a view to improving the capacity of legal institutions to promote respect for human rights.

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