Understanding the sources of normative influence on behavior: the example of tobacco

Soc Sci Med. 2014 Aug:115:139-43. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.05.030. Epub 2014 May 21.


Despite extensive research on social norms, the sources of norm formation are not well understood. Social exposure to a behavior (defined as the composite of ways through which people see that behavior in their social, physical, and symbolic environments) can serve as a source of normative influence. Using tobacco as a case study, we propose that research should move beyond categories of individuals as sources of norms and focus on a broader range of sources of normative influences. An understanding of social exposure as a source for norms may be important to better understand and intervene in environments to promote public health. We make policy recommendations arising from the explication of social exposure and propose directions for future research.

Keywords: Environment; Norms; Smoking; Social exposure; Tobacco use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Research
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Social Environment
  • Social Norms*
  • Tobacco Use / psychology*