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Using normative messages to increase healthy behaviours

Jason M. Slaunwhite (Department of Psychology, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)
Steven M. Smith (Department of Psychology, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)
Mark T. Fleming (Department of Psychology, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)
Leandre R. Fabrigar (Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 25 September 2009




The purpose of this research is to evaluate the impact of theory‐based poster messages on stair‐climbing behaviour in a work environment. The highest‐rated poster developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada's stairway to health program was used as a comparison condition.


Naturalistic observation of stair traffic was conducted in order to measure the effectiveness of poster prompts on stair‐climbing behaviour. Over a period of three years, three separate studies were conducted aimed at increasing stair‐use via experimentally manipulated and theory‐based poster messages.


Results suggest that messages derived from a norm‐based framework are more persuasive than generic information‐based posters when attempting to increase stair‐climbing behaviour.

Practical implications

Small increases in health‐related behaviours at work have important consequences for both individuals and organizations. Using poster messages derived from social psychological theory could prove advantageous for practitioners attempting to increase healthy behaviours at work.


This research provides the first evidence for the use of norm‐based health‐related messages targeted at increasing healthy behaviours. The study makes a theoretical contribution to the creation and application of norm‐based appeals using both simple and complex message framing. Prior to this study, there was no available research on the effectiveness of such appeals on health‐related behaviour.



Slaunwhite, J.M., Smith, S.M., Fleming, M.T. and Fabrigar, L.R. (2009), "Using normative messages to increase healthy behaviours", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 2 No. 3, pp. 231-244.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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