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Social Norming and Social Marketing

Social norms are beliefs held by individuals about attitudes and behaviors that are perceived to be normal, acceptable, and expected in a particular social context. In many situations, an individual’s perception of these norms will greatly influence his or her behavior.

Research conducted by Berkowitz and Perkins has shown that college students have misperceptions about the actual alcohol consumption rates of their peer group, which in turn may have an impact on their drinking rates.

Social norming is a behavioral theory describing how students hold misperceptions about the actual attitudes and behaviors of their peers, and how they may gravitate to their “perceived norms” of behavior. Correcting these misperceptions is an important part of ensuring that inaccurate perceptions about the environment are not negatively influencing student behavior. A growing body of evidence suggests that providing information to students about accurate drinking rates on their own campuses decreases their drinking rates.

The method used to correct misperceptions is social marketing. Social marketing is the use of commercial marketing techniques to promote the adoption of a behavior that will improve the health or well-being of a target audience. Many colleges across the country, including Montana State, Arizona State, Northern Illinois, and Washington State, have adopted these campaigns and report a notable change in the drinking patterns on their campuses.

To learn more, visit the following websites:

  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Program
  • Center for Health and Well-Being
    Suites on Maple East, Suite G59
    901 Maple Street
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-1265
  • Fax: 724-357-4457
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.