Understanding the sources of normative influence on behavior: The example of tobacco

Erin L. Mead, Rajiv N. Rimal, Roberta Ferrence, Joanna E. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Despite extensive research on social norms, the sources of norm formation are not well understood. Social exposure to a behavior (defined as the composite of ways through which people see that behavior in their social, physical, and symbolic environments) can serve as a source of normative influence. Using tobacco as a case study, we propose that research should move beyond categories of individuals as sources of norms and focus on a broader range of sources of normative influences. An understanding of social exposure as a source for norms may be important to better understand and intervene in environments to promote public health. We make policy recommendations arising from the explication of social exposure and propose directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-143
Number of pages5
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Environment
  • Norms
  • Smoking
  • Social exposure
  • Tobacco use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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