Date of Award

December 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Sarah E. Woolf-King


college student, condom use, normative feedback, sexual risk behavior

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Few evidence-based interventions have effectively increased college students’ condom use. There is a large literature supporting the efficacy of alcohol normative feedback interventions, components of which may be useful for the development of condom promotion interventions. While normative feedback interventions traditionally provide feedback associated with a typical student referent, more socially proximal referents may exert a greater influence over behavior compared to distal referents. However, developing discrepancy between perceived and actual norms is also essential for such interventions, and the greatest discrepancy is generated when a distal referent is utilized. Therefore, the goal of this study was to determine which combination of referent proximity and width of discrepancy produces the greatest motivation to increase condom use among college students. We hypothesized that students who were provided feedback that produced a wide discrepancy between perceived and actual norms for a gender-matched referent would be most willing to increase condom use. A total of 212 sexually active college students (50.5% female) recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk participated in on online experimental study that included four conditions: proximal referent wide discrepancy, proximal referent narrow discrepancy, distal referent wide discrepancy, distal referent narrow discrepancy. A three-way factorial analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) revealed a significant interaction between referent proximity and width of discrepancy such that the effect of proximity on willingness to use condoms was greater in the narrow, as compared to wide, discrepancy condition. Findings from this study suggest that it may be beneficial to assess students’ perceptions of their peers’ sexual behavior before selecting the referent to include in normative feedback.


Open Access



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