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Priming effects of perceived norms on behavioral intention through observability


  • The author is grateful to Robert Hornik and James Jaccard for their assistance with the preparation of this manuscript, and to Joseph Cappella and Martin Fishbein for their insightful comments on earlier drafts. This study was part of a dissertation conducted at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (supervised by Robert Hornik). This study was funded under National Cancer Institute Grant 5P50CA095856-05 through the Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research (CECCR) at the Annenberg School for Communication.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Nehama Lewis. Department of Communication, University of Haifa, Rabin Building, Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel 31905. E-mail:


This paper describes research on 2 normative concepts thought to impact health behaviors: injunctive and descriptive norms. The study tests whether the extent to which the same health behavior is enacted in an observable or non-observable setting will lead to variation in normative influence on parent intention. In online experiments conducted in Winter 2009, participants were randomized to a behavioral scenario in which the health behavior was described as occurring in an observable or non-observable setting. For sun-protection behaviors, observability primed the influence of descriptive norms on intention. For nutrition behaviors, observability primed the influence of injunctive norms on intention. Across both conditions, observability of the behavioral scenario increased the strength of the association between norms and intention.

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