Leveraging Dynamic Norms to Reduce College Student Alcohol Use: A Test of Four Mediators

Tobias Reynolds-Tylus, Andrea Martinez Gonzalez, Chris Skurka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Social norms are common in persuasive messaging. For norms trending in a positive direction, it may be beneficial to emphasize change (i.e. dynamic norm) rather than the status quo (i.e. static norm). To test this proposition, we examined college students’ responses to social norm messages encouraging moderate alcohol use. Undergraduates (N = 842) were randomly assigned to view a dynamic norm (“More college students drinking in moderation”), a static descriptive norm (“Most college students drink in moderation”), or a no message control. Four mechanisms were examined as potential mediators, three of which have been examined in previous work (preconformity, perceived importance, self-efficacy) and one of which was novel (psychological reactance). Results revealed that exposure to either social norm message (dynamic or static descriptive) was associated with more favorable attitude relative to a no message control. Attitude did not differ between the dynamic norm and static descriptive norm conditions. Only psychological reactance mediated the relationship between message condition (dynamic vs. static descriptive norm) and favorable attitude. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Communication
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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