44% Reduction over 10 Years
University is a public, land grant institution with approximately 23,000
undergraduate and graduate students. In the 1989-90 academic year, Health
Enhancement Services at NIU began using social marketing methods to
inform students that, contrary to what they believed, the majority of
their peers were in fact moderate and safe drinkers.The primary target
audience for the alcohol intervention consisted of student drinkers
(85% of the 23,000 NIU students).
A grant from the
Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) funded
the implementation of this social norm marketing campaign. No additional
outside funding was received.
To reduce alcohol-related
physical injuries to self and others by increasing moderate consumption.
Baseline data collection
revealed that less than 50% of students reported heavy episodic consumption
of alcohol. However, when asked how much they thought most NIU students
drank, the prevalent perception was that about 70% of their peers engaged
in such behavior.
(Click on any
message in order to view that particular poster.)
Sample media with
normative messages from the 2000-2001 school year included:
Sample media with
normative messages from the 1998-1999 school year included:
Of course, normative
messages can be disseminated in other than poster format. Here are two
examples of flyers developed and distributed in various locations at
NIU in order to promote the positive, healthy norms of its students:
The NIU model inaugurated
the use of social marketing techniques to deliver the social norm messages
to the target audience as well as secondary audiences. Print media employed
included newspaper advertisements (both display and classified), posters,
flyers and leaflets, editorials, letters to the editor, and articles.
One notable innovation of this program was the use of cash incentives
issued to students who had posters on display in their rooms when contacted
by a representative of Health Enhancement Services.
Illinois University's Social Norms Alcohol Media Campaign for 2000-2001
Contains valuable and frequently-requested information regarding normative
message development, as well as specific media channels and placement
frequencies for the various print media employed: posters, campus newspapers,
Letter to Faculty (How to Present a Social Norms Campaign to Various
Social norm campaigns are conducted in a rich environmental context
that presents abundant opportunities and challenges. This useful document
demonstrates how the NIU Health Enhancement staff framed and explained
a social norm campaign to faculty -- a secondary campus audience that
may itself be "carriers of the misperception." Essentially,
it describes the theoretical basis of the social norms approach, solicits
faculty collaboration by suggesting that everyone can support the true
norm of moderation, and provides a brief explanation as to why data
is consistently presented from a "glass mostly full" perspective.
This is then followed by a series of data highlights from a then current
health assessment survey. Note the predominant emphasis on positive
norms throughout this data presentation.
and MDMA (Ecstasy) Use Viewed in the context of Social Norms
Written in Spring 2002 by NIU's Health Enhancement staff for a university-wide
Student Affairs publication, this article addresses a topic of emerging
concern to many college health and student affairs professionals: the
use of GHB and MDMA (Ecstasy) among students. It is provided here as
an example of how to present information about this subject in the context
of an ongoing social norm campaign. Note how the opportunity is used,
first, to provide normative data from the campaign about the students'
"drug of choice," alcohol, and then present data indicating
that "the norm (what is true for most students) at NIU for both
GHB and MDMA is non-use." Finally, a wealth of accurate information
is provided about both GHB and MDMA.
At NIU, evaluation
of the social norm intervention takes many forms. An annual, self-report
health assessment provides pre- and post-testing data. However, other
markers and measures are used whenever they can be identified and accessed.
Survey data showed
a 44% reduction in heavy episodic consumption of alcohol with similar
decreases in injuries to self (down 44%) and to others (down 76%) during
a ten year period from the project's inception. The city attorney of
DeKalb reported major decreases in alcohol fine revenues due to fewer
violations, the local liquor wholesaler reported a 50% decline in retail
keg sales, and the campus police reported a decrease in alcohol-related
showing project results include:
This project was
directed by Michael Haines from 1989-1999.
Haines, M. and G. Barker. "The NIU Experiment: A Case Study of
the Social Norms Approach," (2003) in The Social Norms Approach
To Preventing School And College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook For
Educators, Counselors, And Clinicians, Ed. H. Wesley Perkins. San
The most recent description of the NIU social norms campaign, with
data from the baseline year (1988) through 1998.
Social Norms Approach to Preventing Binge Drinking at Colleges and Universities
by Michael Haines
This document, published in 1996, contains a complete description
of the NIU Social Norms Campaign from its inception in 1989 through
1995. Contents include: a discussion of the historical and theoretical
bases for this approach; a full description of the program methodology,
with samples of the survey instrument and a discussion of media campaign
costs; and bibliography.
Haines, M., A. F.
Spear (1996). "Changing the perception
of the norm: A strategy to decrease binge drinking among college students."
Journal of American College Health, 45, 134-140.
Abstract. A reduction in college students' binge
drinking associated with an intervention to change perceptions of drinking
norms is described. The 5-year study was conducted at a public residential
campus of 23,000 students. A traditional intervention proved unsuccessful,
but a media campaign designed to change student perceptions of the amount
of binge drinking showed an 18.5% drop in the number of students who
perceived binge drinking as the norm (from 69.7% to 51.2%) and a corresponding
reduction in self-reported binge drinking of 8.8% (from 43.0% to 34.2%).
The apparent effectiveness of this prevention effort suggested that
changing college students' perceptions of drinking norms may lower the
proportion of students who engage in binge drinking.
of the information presented on this page were originally prepared by Michael
Haines and Richard Rice and are printed here with their permission.