Understanding the influence of perceived norms on behaviors

Rajiv N. Rimal, Kevin Real

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

449 Scopus citations


Although a number of studies demonstrate the impact of perceived norms on human behavior, we know little about how this relation works. Extant norms-based campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption among U.S. college students fail to distinguish between descriptive and injunctive norms. In this article, we make this distinction, and we develop a model of normative influences that also includes the impact of group identity and communication patterns on students' alcohol consumption. Based on a survey of college students (N = 353), we found that descriptive and injunctive norms were different in terms of their impact on behavior. Furthermore, the inclusion of group identity and communication patterns significantly added to the explanatory power of our model. Overall, we were able to explain roughly 53% of the variance in consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-203
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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