Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Despite the extensive benefits associated with a physically active life style, less than 50% of US adults engage in recommended levels of physical activity (PA), so finding ways to structure environments to promote PA is an important concern. Social norms, conceptualized as an individual’s perception of peer behavior, provide a framework for exploring factors that influence decisions to be physically active. Although researchers have investigated how social norms influence a variety of behaviors, the PA domain has not been fully explored. The focus of this dissertation is to apply social norms theories to investigate how normative information influences PA intentions and exercise behaviors. In the first study, using the Theory of Normative Social Behavior as a framework, interrelationships among social norms, exercise identity, group identity, outcome expectations, and PA intentions were explored in a correlational design. The focus was to explore the underlying mechanisms in the relationship between descriptive norms and PA intentions. College students (N=345) in an introductory kinesiology course completed validated surveys. Descriptive norms were related to PA intentions and this relationship was partially mediated by injunctive norms, outcome expectations, and group identity. Additionally, exercise self-identity fully mediated the relationship. The results highlight the importance of fostering high levels of exercise self-identity when structuring environments to promote PA. An experimental design was used in the second study to investigate the influence of positive and negative normative information on the performance of an exercise endurance task. College students (N=102) were randomly assigned to receive positive or negative normative information, or no information, concerning expectations for their performance. Individuals who received positive feedback performed better than those who received negative feedback and those who did not receive normative information. The provision of positive normative information also produced an increase in self-efficacy for the task. Taken together, the findings from these studies provide insight into ways that social norms should be structured to promote physically active lifestyles. A focus on positive normative information and promoting exercise self-identity are key factors in this process, and these studies suggest that understanding the role of self-efficacy is also an important concern.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Solmon, Melinda



Included in

Kinesiology Commons