The acquisition of perceived descriptive norms as social category learning in social networks

Yoshihisa Kashima, Samuel Wilson, Dean Lusher, Leonie J. Pearson, Craig Pearson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Descriptive norms-what people typically do in a certain setting-play a significant role in people's behavioural decisions. However, little is known about how people acquire descriptive norms in their community. We postulate that acquisition of descriptive norms can be construed as social category learning in social networks, where people learn social information relevant about community descriptive norms from others with whom they are associated through social network ties. We distinguish two routes to norm acquisition: experiential and conceptual. The experiential route suggests people observe the behaviours of their associates in their social networks, and infer what people typically do; the conceptual route suggests people learn about their community from what their associates say people typically do. We used a novel statistical method of autologistic actor attribute models (ALAAM) on survey responses collected by snow ball sampling in a rural city in Australia, and found that people experientially learn descriptive norms about community engagement. Implications of this finding and the limitations of the current study are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-719
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Networks
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


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