Extending the Theory of Normative Social Behavior: Collective Norms, Opinion Leadership, and Masking During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Xun Zhu, Christopher J. Carpenter, Rachel A. Smith, Jessica Gall Myrick, Molly A. Martin, Robert P. Lennon, Meg L. Small, Lauren J. Van Scoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Novel, public behaviors, such as masking, should be susceptible to normative influence. This paper advances the theory of normative social behavior by considering a new set of moderators of normative influence — superdiffuser traits — and by clarifying the antecedents and consequences of exposure to collective norms. We use data from a two-wave survey of a cohort living in one U.S. county during the pandemic (N = 913) to assess normative effects on masking. We also used a bipartite network (based on people shopping for food in the same stores) to examine exposure to collective norms. The results show different superdiffuser traits have distinct effects on the relationship between perceived injunctive norms and masking intentions. Exposure to collective norms influences masking, but this influence depends on how people interact with their social environments. Network analysis shows that behavioral homophily is a significant predictor of selective exposure to collective norms earlier (but not later) in the pandemic. Implications for understanding normative influence in a context where opinion leadership matters are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Communication
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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