Perceived Historical Drinking Norms and Current Drinking Behavior: Using the Theory of Normative Social Behavior as a Framework for Assessment

Nick Carcioppolo, Jakob D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Social norms are sustained and disseminated, both implicitly and explicitly, through the act of communication. As a result, communication researchers have sought to classify and target normative perceptions to enact social change. In line with this research, the current study investigated whether perceptions of past normative behavior, referred to here as historical norms, were significantly related to current behavior. Using the theory of normative behavior as a guiding framework, two studies were conducted to assess whether college student drinking behavior was related to one of two perceived historical drinking norms measures: historical consumption norms (i.e., the perceived percentage of students who drank over time) and historical tradition norms (i.e., the perception of drinking as a university tradition). Study 1 revealed that although historical consumption norms was not directly related to drinking behavior, it moderated the effect of descriptive norms on drinking behavior (p =.03). A full assessment of the theory of normative social behavior was conducted in study 2 to determine whether perceived historical drinking norms influenced behavior above and beyond both descriptive and injunctive norms. Findings demonstrated that historical tradition norms were significantly related to drinking behavior (p =.001), and marginally moderated the relationship between descriptive norms and drinking behavior (p =.09). These findings offer preliminary evidence in support of measuring perceived historical drinking norms in future campaigns and interventions designed to reduce drinking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-775
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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