Social Norms, Referent Group Specificity, and College Students’ COVID-19 Vaccination Intentions: Risk and Efficacy Perceptions as Boundary Conditions of Normative Influence

Jie Zhuang, Paul Schrodt, Mengfei Guan


How social norms affect people’s decisions to enact protective behaviors when they encounter danger is both theoretically and practically meaningful. This research investigated how social norms varying in referent group specificity, perceived risk, and perceived efficacy affect college students’ COVID-19 vaccination intention. We collected data from 640 undergraduate students during March and April 2021. The results showed that social norms in different referent groups are associated uniquely with vaccination intention. We also observed two 3-way interaction effects. Personal- and community-level norms interacted with perceived risk of COVID-19 and perceived efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to influence participants’ vaccination intention. Specifically, perceived risk attenuated the effect of personal- and community-levels of norms on vaccination intention among participants who perceived higher levels of vaccine efficacy. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


social norms, risk, and efficacy perceptions, college students, COVID-19

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