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 (US)
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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