Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies
Western Regional Summer School

The Social Norms Prevention Model in Theory and Practice
H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D. and David W. Craig, Ph.D.
August 3, 2000

PART I. Science-Based Prevention: The Social Norms Model

The "Social Norms Model" for preventing alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) abuse and promoting campus health has gained the attention of education professionals as one of the most promising, innovative, and indeed, effective strategies for the prevention field today. This approach has developed out of the theoretical work and empirical research of Dr. Perkins and colleagues over the last decade. In the first part of this workshop Dr. Perkins will first discuss the evolution of thinking in the prevention field leading to the social norms approach. Beginning with the revelation of pervasive misperceptions held by students about their peer's ATOD norms at secondary schools and at all types of colleges and universities, this presentation will then explain the psychological and social causes of these misperceptions. Next the consequences of these inflated misperceptions will be examined in terms of misperceptions contributing to increases in actual ATOD problems. Finally, the implications of reducing these misperceptions and harnessing the positive power of peers through the promotion of accurate social norms will be introduced.

PART II. The HWS Project and Other Case Study Examples of Social Norms Campaign Strategies

The second part of this workshop focuses on putting the model into practice. Dr. Perkins and Dr. Craig have collaborated in designing and directing a successful alcohol abuse prevention project at Hobart and William Smith Colleges based largely on the social norms model that uses a variety of social marketing strategies as well as curriculum infusion. They will present an update of their work as a case study along with examples from other initiatives and a preliminary report of their progress in implementing the elements of this program in secondary schools. The strategies they use to reduce misperceptions and engage positive peer norms include print media advertising, interdisciplinary courses, specialized workshops for high-risk target groups, and use of electronic communications networks and online multimedia. The session will provide examples of these various prevention techniques including an online demonstration of multimedia projects. Evaluation data about the effects of the project will also be presented.

PART III. Conclusion Challenges, Concerns, and New Directions for the Social Norms Approach

page last modified: 4/17/2000