Intervening or interfering? The influence of injunctive and descriptive norms on intervention behaviours in alcohol consumption contexts

S. Mollen*, R.N. Rimal, R.A.C. Ruiter, S.A. Jang, G. Kok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Web of Science)


In situations when people have been drinking, they often find it difficult to tell their friends to stop drinking, or not to drive home. Most people want to avoid being seen as a busybody, which may inhibit advice giving. In the current study, we investigated how positive and negative descriptive and injunctive norms (in alcohol consumption contexts) affect people's motivation to engage in intervening (e.g. ask a friend to stop drinking) and non-intervening (e.g. let friends make their own drinking decisions) behaviours. An online experiment with a fourweeks post-test was conducted. Results showed that positive social norms resulted in a higher motivation to engage in intervening behaviour and a lower motivation to engage in non-intervening behaviour, compared to negative social norms. Injunctive, but not descriptive, norms had an effect on intervening behaviour fourweeks after the manipulations. In line with prior findings, we also found that injunctive norms, in comparison to descriptive norms, are less amenable to change but that their influence is more enduring. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-578
JournalPsychology & Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Cite this