Many accounts of social influences on exercise participation describe how people compare their behaviors to those of others. We develop and test a novel hypothesis, the exercise rank hypothesis, of how this comparison can occur. The exercise rank hypothesis, derived from evolutionary theory and the decision by sampling model of judgment, suggests that individuals' perceptions of the health benefits of exercise are influenced by how individuals believe the amount of exercise ranks in comparison with other people's amounts of exercise. Study 1 demonstrated that individuals' perceptions of the health benefits of their own current exercise amounts were as predicted by the exercise rank hypothesis. Study 2 demonstrated that the perceptions of the health benefits of an amount of exercise can be manipulated by experimentally changing the ranked position of the amount within a comparison context. The discussion focuses on how social norm-based interventions could benefit from using rank information.
- Decision making