When the frame fits the social picture: The effects of framed social norm messages on healthy and unhealthy food consumption

Saar Mollen*, Rob W. Holland, Robert A. C. Ruiter, Rajiv N. Rimal, Gerjo Kok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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We investigated the influence of framed norm messages about food consumption on motivation to consume, and actual consumption of, healthy and unhealthy foods. We proposed that the effects of positive and negative message frames would vary by the type of underlying norms (i.e., injunctive, descriptive). More specifically, based on information processing theories, it was expected that injunctive norms would be more effective when framed negatively compared with positively, while the opposite was expected for descriptive norms. In both experiments, participants were randomly assigned to one of four framed social norm conditions or a no-norm control condition. In experiment 1, motivation to consume healthy and unhealthy foods was assessed by means of both indirect and self-report measures. In experiment 2, actual food consumption was assessed. In both experiments, the predicted interaction was found. Results show that injunctive norms benefit from a negative (vs. Positive) frame, while preliminary evidence suggests the opposite for descriptive norms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-378
Number of pages33
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number3
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • descriptive norms
  • injunctive norms
  • framing
  • approach-avoidance task
  • health behavior
  • food intake

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