Correcting injunctive norm misperceptions motivates behavior change: A randomized controlled sun protection intervention

Allecia E. Reid, Leona S. Aiken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite long-standing social psychological research supporting the influence of injunctive norms (i.e., what is commonly approved or disapproved) on behavior, support for this influence on health behaviors is limited. We examined the utility of correcting misperceptions of injunctive norms for improving sun protection and whether changes in attitudes mediated the injunctive norm-intention relationship. Method: At baseline 263 community residing primarily White women, aged 37 to 77 years, reported their beliefs about sun protection and tanning and their perceptions of "typical women's" approval of sun protection versus tanning. Women underestimated approval of sun protection and overestimated approval of tanning. In a randomized trial, 189 of these women received either information about sun protection or information plus personalized normative feedback (PNF). PNF compared each woman's own perceptions of typical women's approval of tanning and sun protection with actual normative values, both measured at baseline. PNF communicated that most women approve of others who sun protect. Results: PNF led to more positive sun protection injunctive norms, attitudes, and intentions at immediate posttest and more positive intentions and self-reported behavior at 4-week follow-up. Baseline discrepancy between a woman's beliefs and actual normative values related negatively to changes in sun protection in the control condition but positively in the PNF condition. As hypothesized, changes in attitudes partially mediated the influence of PNF on changes in intentions. Conclusions: The present research demonstrates the utility of correcting injunctive norm misperceptions for promoting healthy behaviors. That attitudes changed in response to PNF and mediated the normintention relationship suggests a method for influencing attitudes that may limit reactance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-560
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013


  • Attitudes
  • Injunctive norms
  • Intervention
  • Personalized normative feedback
  • Sun protection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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