Moving toward a theory of normative influences: how perceived benefits and similarity moderate the impact of descriptive norms on behaviors

J Health Commun. 2005 Jul-Aug;10(5):433-50. doi: 10.1080/10810730591009880.


In recent years researchers have focused attention on understanding the role of normative factors in influencing behaviors. Although there is some evidence to support the idea that restructuring normative beliefs can result in behavior change, the norms literature is largely silent about how or why this influence occurs. The theory of normative social behavior describes the moderators of the descriptive norm-behavior relationship. Through a 2 (descriptive norms: high or low) x 2 (perceived benefits: high or low) x 2 (similarity: high or low) between-subjects experiment (N = 174), we tested whether these cognitive mechanisms moderated the norms-behavior link. Results indicated that descriptive norms do not exert a direct influence on behavior. Rather, perceived benefits moderated the relationship between descriptive norms and behavioral intention and perceived similarity moderated the relation between descriptive norms and self-efficacy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior*
  • Behavioral Research / methods
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Conformity*
  • Southwestern United States
  • Students / psychology
  • Yoga / psychology*