Encouraging Bystanders to Intervene: A Test of Normative Influence in an Online Training

by Mark R Relyea

Institution: University of Illinois – Chicago
Year: 2016
Keywords: social norms; bystander intervention; online training; sexual assault; interpersonal violence
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2071508
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10027/21178


Bystander programs on college campuses encourage community members to respond to interpersonal violence through intervening, challenging harmful social norms, and supporting survivors (Banyard, 2015). Such programs often use social norms tactics to normalize and promote intervening. Because recent federal law requires that universities offer prevention programs with bystander components to all new students and target social norms (Campus SaVE, 2013), many schools have begun using online trainings to ease compliance with that goal. While online trainings carry the advantages of personalized feedback and reaching a large number of students quickly, few have been robustly evaluated. Furthermore, the literature provides little guidance as few studies have evaluated online bystander programs, examined whether normative tactics affect bystanders’ likelihood of intervening, or examined the relationship between bystander norms and behaviors. This study addresses these gaps by comparing two common social norm tactics (injunctive messages and normative feedback) to alter perceptions of social norms and increase intentions to intervene as a bystander. Injunctive messages create an impression that others think participants should intervene whereas normative feedback provides data to show intervening is common. Together they try to make intervening seem socially desirable and normal. A randomized 2 X 2 full factorial design was used to assess the individual and interactive effects of these tactics on perceptions of social norms. Finally, the Theory of Normative Social Behavior (Rimal & Real, 2005) was applied to assess how bystander social norms relate to intentions to intervene. At a large Midwestern urban university, 218 student volunteers were randomly assigned to one of four versions of an online training: a control condition (information only),normative feedback, injunctive messages, or feedback plus injunctive messages. ANCOVAs revealed that feedback made intervening seem more common and socially accepted while injunctive messages had no effect on perceived social norms. An interaction revealed that injunctive messages and possibly feedback reduce intentions to intervene when administered alone yet have no overall impact when combined relative to control. A regression showed that norms positively relate to intentions and that the effects of social norm tactics on intentions to intervene were partly mediated by norms. Results suggest that altering perceptions of social norms may have mixed effects on intentions to intervene. Implications for bystander intervention are discussed in the context of social norms theory and reactance theory. Advisors/Committee Members: Riger, Stephanie (advisor).