The Mechanisms of Social Norms' Influence on Consumer Decision Making: A Meta-Analysis

Vladimir Melnyk*, Erica Van Herpen, Suzanne Jak, Hans C.M. Van Trijp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In the past decades, marketing practitioners have embraced social norms as a powerful instrument of influencing consumers' behavior. An important distinction has been made between descriptive norms (what most others do) and injunctive norms (what others approve of), and this meta-analysis across 297 studies examines the effects of these types of social norms on consumer decision-making processes. We argue that descriptive norms directly influence behavior, and consequently that their effect on behavior should be stronger than that of injunctive norms. Injunctive norms, by contrast, should be more strongly related to intentions than descriptive norms. Results of the meta-analysis support these predictions, and furthermore provide new insights into the moderating effects of aspects of the norm (specificity of the norm, norm source) and of the target person (gender, age).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-17
Number of pages14
JournalZeitschrift fur Psychologie / Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2019


  • decision making Funding: Suzanne Jak was supported by grant NWO-VENI-451-16-001 from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) Authorship: The first two authors contributed equally.
  • descriptive norm
  • injunctive norm
  • meta-analysis
  • social norm


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