Descriptive and injunctive social norms’ interactive role in gambling behavior

Abstract

Social norms have a fundamental impact on behavior, yet little research has examined social norms regarding gambling and no research has examined possible interaction effects. The current study examined the interaction between perceived approval of gambling by others (i.e., injunctive norms) and perceived prevalence of gambling by others (i.e., descriptive norms) on the respondent's gambling frequency and problems, in a sample of relatively frequent gamblers. The current study examined 2 distinct reference groups: 1 close in proximity (i.e., family and friends) and 1 distally located (i.e., other students). The sample consisted of 252 undergraduates who gambled at least twice a month. Two interactions were observed on gambling frequency based on the proximity of the reference groups; however, only descriptive norms significantly predicted gambling problems. When the reference group was closer in proximity, the positive relationship between perceptions of family and friends' gambling frequency and the individual's own gambling was stronger for individuals who believed that their friends and family members highly approved of gambling. When the reference group was distally located, differences in respondents' gambling frequency emerged only in contexts in which they perceived other students to gamble infrequently. Specifically, when respondents perceived that other students gambled infrequently and disapproved of gambling, respondents gambled the most frequently. The results suggest that individuals are influenced by their perceptions of others' attitudes and behaviors, regardless of proximity, and that these perceptions of others' behavior are strongly associated with gambling problems.

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