Date of Award

January 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Joelle Ruthig


Research has shown that social norms may influence individuals’ engagement in potentially dangerous behaviors. The current study examined the influence of descriptive norms and injunctive norms on risk perceptions, intentions, and behavioral outcomes for tanning and binge drinking. Participants were 359 Caucasian women between the ages of 21 and 25 years old residing in the United States who completed online surveys via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk). The study employed a 3 (Descriptive norm information: high risk estimate vs. low risk estimate vs. none) x 3 (Injunctive norm information: approval vs. disapproval vs. none) x 2 (Target risk behavior: tanning vs. binge drinking) factorial design. It was expected that exposure to high risk (vs. low risk) estimate information and disapproval norm information (vs. approval norm information) would produce higher personal risk estimates, weaker intent to engage in the target behavior, and less engagement in that behavior during the follow-up period. The results showed that descriptive norms impacted risk estimates in the expected direction, and injunctive norms impacted behavior intentions in the expected direction. However, exposure to social norms did not influence subsequent behavioral outcomes. Findings provided insight into the varying relationships between social norms and young women’s risk perceptions as a function of different types of health-related behaviors.