The impact of descriptive norms on motivation to participate in cancer screening - Evidence from online experiments



von Wagner C, Hirst Y, Waller J, Ghanouni A, McGregor LM, Kerrison R, Verstraete W, Vlaev I, Sieverding M & Stoffel S (2019) The impact of descriptive norms on motivation to participate in cancer screening - Evidence from online experiments. Patient Education and Counseling, 102 (9), pp. 1621-1628.

Objective The current study tested in two online experiments whether manipulating normative beliefs about cancer screening uptake increases intention to attend colorectal screening among previously disinclined individuals. Methods 2461 men and women from an Internet panel (Experiment 1 N = 1032; Experiment 2, N = 1423) who initially stated that they did not intend to take up screening were asked to guess how many men and women they believe to get screened for colorectal cancer. Across participants, we varied the presence/absence of feedback on the participant’s estimate, as well as the stated proportion of men and women doing the screening test. Results Across the two experiments, we found that receiving one of the experimental messages stating that uptake is higher than estimated significantly increased the proportion of disinclined men and women becoming intenders. While, we found a positive relationship between the communicated uptake and screening intentions, we did not find evidence that providing feedback on the estimate has an added benefit. Conclusion Screening intention can be effectively manipulated through a high uptake message. Practice implications Communication of high screening uptake is an easy and effective way to motivate disinclined individuals to engage in colorectal cancer screening.

Descriptive norm information; Social norms; Decision making; Behaviour change; Health behaviour; Cancer screening

Patient Education and Counseling: Volume 102, Issue 9

FundersCancer Research UK
Publication date30/09/2019
Publication date online04/04/2019
Date accepted by journal01/04/2019

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Dr Lesley McGregor

Dr Lesley McGregor

Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology