Normative influence and physical activity
Previous theory-driven research studies in the activity area examining descriptive norms (e.g., Priebe & Spink, 2011, 2012) have demonstrated that these perceptions about others’ behaviour can influence individual behaviour. Although the results of these studies are informative, many questions still remain. The studies comprising this thesis add to the extant literature by improving upon methodological limitations of past work, extending the examination of the effects of norms on activity to include both injunctive norms (i.e., perceptions about others’ approval) and combined norms (aligned and misaligned), examining other activity-related cognitions (self-efficacy) and behaviour (sedentary), as well as examining characteristics of the norm reference group. Three independent experimental studies were conducted. Study 1 examined the effects of a descriptive norm message on muscular endurance and task self-efficacy in Pilates participants. Results revealed greater endurance and higher task self-efficacy among participants in the descriptive norm information condition as compared to control group participants. Study 2 compared four information conditions: injunctive, aligned descriptive and injunctive, misaligned descriptive and injunctive, and control with respect to their influence on muscular endurance and efficacy in a student population. Individuals receiving the aligned norms had the longest post-condition muscular endurance and greater task efficacy than all other conditions. No differences emerged between the injunctive, misaligned, and control conditions. Study 3, an online experimental field study, examined the effects of descriptive norms on both light activity and sedentary behaviour in an office setting. Study 3 also examined the effects of norms when the reference group differed in personal or contextual similarity. No differences emerged between participants receiving information about groups that varied in similarity. However, after receiving an email with descriptive norm information about co-workers’ behaviour, light activity increased and sitting behaviour decreased within the office setting across all conditions. Results from these three studies suggest the following: (1) aligned norms seem to be more effective than misaligned, (2) standalone injunctive norms might not be salient in the activity setting, (3) descriptive norms can impact objective activity behaviour, self-report light activity and sedentary behaviour, and (4) descriptive norms also may inform related cognitive constructs such as task self-efficacy.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorSpink, Kevin S.
CommitteeBrawley, Lawrence R.; Gyurcsik, Nancy C.; McDougall, Patricia
Copyright DateDecember 2013