National Social Norms Resource Center
MISPERCEPTIONS PROVEN TO BE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE METHOD FOR CURBING HIGH-RISK
DRINKING AND RELATED NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES
and Universities Nationwide Continue to Reap Benefits from Successful
Social Norms Interventions
IL (July 23, 2004)— Data collected as a result of the
largest nationwide study of college students to date shows that reducing
misperceptions of peer behavior significantly reduces high-risk drinking
and its negative consequences, according to a report presented today
at the National Social Norms Conference in Chicago, IL. The National
College Health Assessment Survey was administered between 2000 and 2003
and included more than 76,000 students at 130 colleges and universities.
"The study clearly demonstrates
that students' perceptions of the drinking norms on their campus is
by far the strongest predictor of the amount of alcohol personally consumed,"
said Michael Haines, Director of the National Social Norms Resource
Center, who is presenting the conference. "Furthermore, colleges
whose prevention efforts reduce students' misperceptions of peer drinking
reduce high-risk drinking and negative consequences. That is what social
norms campaigns are designed to do."
Social norms methodology
is the widely discussed method of public health promotion based on communicating
accurate information about the prevalence of healthy behavior in order
to produce more healthy behavior.
"It was particularly
interesting to note that at over 90% of schools, prevention program
information is not associated with reducing misperceptions," said
H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology at Hobart and William
Smith Colleges and co-presenter of the study at the conference. "In
fact, many prevention programs actually inflate misperceptions, leading
to increases in drinking behaviors."
Social Norms College
Florida State University
is a large public institution with 37,000 students that has used an
integrated approach to reducing high-risk drinking. Its social norms
efforts were integrated across the FSU campus, encompassing everything
from administrative offices to residence halls and student governments.
The campaign has resulted in a 15% reduction in high-risk drinking among
male students and a 5% reduction among female students since 2002.
Another highly successful
implementation was used to promote health among college-student athletes.
Two projects, one at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York,
and one at five Division III schools that are members of the National
Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), were launched in 2001 to test
the possibility of reducing misperceptions of high student-athlete alcohol
and tobacco use in order to increase positive behaviors. The campaigns,
which included anonymous web-based surveys, print and electronic marketing
materials, and peer education seminars, resulted in an average 32% reduction
in the proportion of student-athletes drinking more than once per week,
as well as an average 29.5% reduction in the proportion of student-athletes
experiencing frequent negative consequences due to drinking during the
are increasingly understanding the potent influence of the peer group
on individual behaviors and as such, are using social norms theory with
greater frequency," remarked Perkins. "Another example of
an effective use of the social norms approach is Montana's Most of Us
Campaign, which has curbed impaired driving among young adults. With
this and other campaigns, evidence continues to accumulate supporting
the theory and its effectiveness across a wide range of social issues."
The National Social
Norms Conference is presented by the National Social Norms Resource
Center and the Bacchus and Gamma Peer Education Network. The National
Social Norms Resource Center is an independent center that supports,
promotes and provides technical assistance in the application of the
social norms approach to a broad range of health, safety and social
justice issues, including alcohol-related risk-reduction and the prevention
of tobacco use. It is the only national center devoted exclusively to
the understanding and use of the social norms approach. Opened on July
1, 2000, the Center is directed by Michael Haines, a nationally recognized
proponent and pioneering practitioner of the social norms approach.
For more information, visit www.socialnorm.org.