Associations of perceived norms with intentions to learn genomic sequencing results: Roles for attitudes and ambivalence

Health Psychol. 2018 Jun;37(6):553-561. doi: 10.1037/hea0000579. Epub 2018 May 10.


Objective: Genomic sequencing is becoming increasingly accessible, highlighting the need to understand the social and psychological factors that drive interest in receiving testing results. These decisions may depend on perceived descriptive norms (how most others behave) and injunctive norms (what is approved of by others). We predicted that descriptive norms would be directly associated with intentions to learn genomic sequencing results, whereas injunctive norms would be associated indirectly, via attitudes. These differential associations with intentions versus attitudes were hypothesized to be strongest when individuals held ambivalent attitudes toward obtaining results.

Method: Participants enrolled in a genomic sequencing trial (n = 372) reported intentions to learn medically actionable, nonmedically actionable, and carrier sequencing results. Descriptive norms items referenced other study participants. Injunctive norms were analyzed separately for close friends and family members. Attitudes, attitudinal ambivalence, and sociodemographic covariates were also assessed.

Results: In structural equation models, both descriptive norms and friend injunctive norms were associated with intentions to receive all sequencing results (ps < .004). Attitudes consistently mediated all friend injunctive norms-intentions associations, but not the descriptive norms-intentions associations. Attitudinal ambivalence moderated the association between friend injunctive norms (p ≤ .001), but not descriptive norms (p = .16), and attitudes. Injunctive norms were significantly associated with attitudes when ambivalence was high, but were unrelated when ambivalence was low. Results replicated for family injunctive norms.

Conclusions: Descriptive and injunctive norms play roles in genomic sequencing decisions. Considering mediators and moderators of these processes enhances ability to optimize use of normative information to support informed decision making. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Norms