Send to

Choose Destination
Accid Anal Prev. 2016 Jul;92:184-8. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Apr 13.

Boosting safety behaviour: Descriptive norms encourage child booster seat usage amongst low involvement parents.

Author information

King's University College at Western University, 266 Epworth Avenue, London, Ontario N6A 2M3, Canada. Electronic address:
York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada. Electronic address:
Ivey Business School at Western University, 1255 Western Road, London, Ontario N6G 0N1, Canada. Electronic address:
University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada. Electronic address:


Campaigns advocating behavioural changes often employ social norms as a motivating technique, favouring injunctive norms (what is typically approved or disapproved) over descriptive norms (what is typically done). Here, we investigate an upside to including descriptive norms in health and safety appeals. Because descriptive norms are easy to process and understand, they should provide a heuristic to guide behaviour in those individuals who lack the interest or motivation to reflect on the advocated behaviour more deeply. When those descriptive norms are positive - suggesting that what is done is consistent with what ought to be done - including them in campaigns should be particularly beneficial at influencing this low-involvement segment. We test this proposition via research examining booster seat use amongst parents with children of booster seat age, and find that incorporating positive descriptive norms into a related campaign is particularly impactful for parents who report low involvement in the topic of booster seat safety. Descriptive norms are easy to state and easy to understand, and our research suggests that these norms resonate with low involvement individuals. As a result, we recommend incorporating descriptive norms when possible into health and safety campaigns.


Child safety restraints; Descriptive norms; Injury prevention; Normative appeals; Social marketing

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center