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J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2017 Apr;39(2):89-96. doi: 10.1123/jsep.2016-0149. Epub 2017 Jul 7.

Tracing How Normative Messages May Influence Physical Activity Intention.

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1 European Commission.
2 Baylor College of Medicine.


Normative messages have been shown to increase intention to do physical activity. We traced how "positive" and "negative" normative messages influenced physical activity intention by comparing constructs of the model of goal-directed behavior with descriptive norms (MGDB + DNs) across control and treatment groups in an experiment. For this purpose, 16-24-year-old respondents (n = 1,200) in Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania were asked about their age, sex, and levels of physical activity before being exposed to positive and negative normative messages and completing a questionnaire with MGDB + DNs scales. Different MGDB + DNs constructs were influenced by the normative messages: compared with the control, the negative message group showed stronger attitudes (p = .003) and the positive message group showed higher positive anticipated emotions (p = .005). The positive message's effect is consistent with the literature on conformity to social norms. The negative message's effect lends itself to interpretations based on social identity and deviance regulation theories.


descriptive norms; exercise psychology; health behavior; model of goal-directed behavior; theory of planned behavior; young adults

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