Recent Journal Articles, Case Studies, Reports, and Books: Bibliographic Information
Here you will find bibliographic information for published studies either directly or indirectly related to the social norms approach. Although generally limited to items that have been published within the last several years, we also note relevant research published in prior years which has only recently come to our attention. At this time entries are grouped by year in reverse chronological order.
Perkins, H.W. "Misperceptions of Peer Drinking Norms in Canada: Another Look at the 'Reign of Error' and Its Consequences among College Students. " Addictive Behaviors,32, 2645-2656, 2007.
Abstract: Objective: Much research has documented extensive misperceptions of drinking norms and their negative effects in U.S. student populations. This study provides extensive research evidence documenting this phenomenon in Canadian higher education.
Methods: Data were collected in a 2003-2004 survey of students (N=5280) attending 11 institutions across Canada. Surveys were administered either to a random sample of students through the mail or to students attending a diverse selection of classes.
Results: Regardless of the actual drinking norm on each campus, students most commonly overestimated the alcohol consumption norms (both quantity and frequency levels) in every instance. Students' perception of their campus drinking norm was the strongest predictor of the amount of alcohol personally consumed in comparison
with the influence of all demographic variables. Perception of the norm was also a much stronger predictor of personal use than the actual campus norm for consumption on each campus or the actual norm for compliance with campus regulations. Among students who personally abstain or consume lightly, misperceptions of the student drinking norms contribute to alienation from campus life. Conclusion: The data presented here on Canadian students extends the evidence that peer drinking norms are grossly misperceived and that these misperceptions produce a highly detrimental "reign of error" in the lives of college students. The data suggest that a broad range of students-abstainers and light drinkers as well as moderate and heavy drinkers-may benefit from implementing intervention strategies that can correct or reduce these misperceptions.
Neighbors, C., Lee, C.M., Lewis, M., Fossos, N., "Are Social Norms the Best Predictors of Outcomes Among Heavy-Drinking College Students?" Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 68:556-565, 2007
ABSTRACT. Objective: This research was designed to evaluate the relative contribution of social norms, demographics, drinking motives, and alcohol expectancies in predicting alcohol consumption and related problems among heavy-drinking college students. Method: Participants included 818 (57.6% women) first-year undergraduates who reported at least one heavy-drinking episode in the previous month. In addition to providing demographic information (gender and fraternity/sorority membership) participants completed Web-based assessments of social norms (perceived descriptive norms regarding typical student drinking, injunctive norms regarding friends' and parents' approval), motives (social, enhancement, coping, and conformity), and expectancies and evaluations of positive and negative alcohol effects. Results: Regression results indicated that descriptive and injunctive norms were among the best predictors of college student drinking. With respect to alcohol problems, results indicated that coping motives accounted for the largest proportion of unique variance. Finally, results revealed that alcohol consumption mediated the relationships between predictors and problems for social norms, whereas coping motives, negative expectancies, and evaluation of negative effects were directly associated with alcohol problems despite having relatively weak or null unique associations with consumption. Conclusions: The results of this study substantiate social norms as being among the best predictors of alcohol consumption in this population and suggest that drinking to cope is a better predictor
of problems. The findings are discussed in terms of practical prevention and treatment implications.
Bobek, D.D., Roberts, R. W., Sweeney, J. T. "The Social Norms of Tax Compliance: Evidence from Australia, Singapore, and the United States." Journal of Business Ethics, 74:49-64, 2007.
Abstract: Tax compliance is a concern to governments around the world. Prior research has attributed unexplained inter-country differences in compliance rates to differences in social norms. Economics researchers studying tax compliance in the United States (U.S.) have called for more attention to social (as opposed to economic) influences on tax compliance. In this study, we extend this prior research by explicitly examining the role of social norms on tax compliance in three different countries. We test our research hypotheses using a hypothetical compliance scenario, which was administered in Australia, Singapore, and the U.S. There were differences in compliance rates and social norms among the three countries. Factor analysis of the social norm questions identified three distinct social norm constructs. Two of these factors were significant in explaining tax compliance behavior. The first and most influential factor was taxpayers' own personal moral beliefs, along with the beliefs of those close to them (e.g., friends and important others). The second significant factor represented societal views of proper behavior. We conclude that social norms help to explain tax compliance intentions and why tax compliance rates are higher than would be predicted by strictly economic models.
Neighbors, C. Lostutter, T. W., Whiteside, U., Fossos, N., Walker, D.D., Larimer, M. E. "
Injunctive Norms and Problem Gambling among College Students." Journal of Gambling Studies, 23:253-273, 2007.
Abstract: Two studies examined the relationships among injunctive norms and college student gambling. In study 1 we evaluated the accuracy of perceptions of other students' approval of gambling and the relationship between perceived approval and gambling behavior. In study 2 we evaluated gambling behavior as a function of perceptions of approval of other students, friends, and family. In study 1, which included 2524 college students, perceptions of other students' approval of gambling were found to be overestimated and were negatively associated with gambling behavior. The results of study 2, which included 565 college students, replicated the findings of study 1 and revealed positive associations between gambling behavior and perceived approval of friends and family. Results highlight the complexity of injunctive norms and the importance of considering the reference group (e.g., peers, friends, family members) in their evaluation. Results also encourage caution in considering the incorporation of injunctive norms in prevention and intervention approaches.
Schultz, P.W., Nolan, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Goldstein, N. J., Griskevicius, V. "
The Constructive, Destructive, and Reconstructive Power of Social Norms." Psychological Science, Volume 18, No. 5, 429-434, 2007.
ABSTRACT-Despite a long tradition of effectiveness in laboratory tests, normative messages have had mixed success in changing behavior in field contexts, with some studies showing boomerang effects. To test a theoretical account of this inconsistency, we conducted a field experiment in which normative messages were used to promote household energy conservation. As predicted, a descriptive normative message detailing average neighborhood usage produced either desirable energy savings or the undesirable boomerang effect, depending on whether households were already consuming at a low or high rate. Also as predicted, adding an injunctive message (conveying social approval or disapproval) eliminated the boomerang effect. The results offer an explanation for the mixed success of persuasive appeals based on social norms and suggest how such appeals should be properly crafted.
Cialdini, R. "Descriptive Social Norms as Underappreciated Sources of Social Control." Psychometrika, vol. 72, No. 2, 263-268, 2007.
Abstract Böckenholt and van der Heijden's results regarding compliance with insurance regulations-that the enforcement activities of a regulatory agency were relatively unpredictive of compliance-are consistent with findings from other domains (e.g., tax adherence), where personal factors and informal social controls have been shown to play a more significant role. However, the specific form of informal social control investigated in Böckenholt and van der Heijden's study (the perceived approval/disapproval of friends and family) is not the only kind of informal social control that has proven effective in spurring compliance. Descriptive social norms, which involve perceptions not of what others approve but of what others actually do, also influence compliance decisions powerfully. Yet, the role of descriptive social norms in rule adherence is often underappreciated by governed and governors alike. The consequences of this relative lack of recognition are discussed within the arena of compliance with pro-environmental regulations and requests.
Lewis, M. L., Lee, C. M., Patrick. M. E., Fossos, N. "Gender-specific Normative Misperceptions of Risky Sexual Behavior and Alcohol-related Risky Sexual Behavior." Sex Roles, 57:81-90, 2007.
Abstract: This research examined gender-specific perceptions of risky sexual behavior norms among college students and their relationship with one's own sexual behavior. We expected that students would misperceive the risky sexual behavior of their peers and that these perceptions would positively relate to their sexual behavior. Undergraduate students from the United States (N?=?687; 57.6% female) completed measures assessing perceived sexual behavior, sexual behavior, and other behaviors (e.g., marijuana use, alcohol consumption). Findings demonstrated that students perceived that others engaged in more risky sexual behavior than they do and that perceived norms were positively associated with one's own behavior. The incorporation of personalized normative feedback regarding risky sexual behavior into brief interventions aimed at reducing risky sexual behavior is discussed.
Lewis, T. F., "Perceptions of Risk and Sex-Specific Social Norms in Explaining Alcohol Consumption among College Students: Implications for Campus Interventions." Journal of College Student Development, May/June 2007, Vol. 48, No. 3., 297-310.
The aim of this study was to expand the assessment of two explanatory models of drinking behavior-perceptions of risk and social norms-and determine their relationship to dimensions of alcohol involvement in a multivariate evaluation.
The Alcohol and Drug Survey was administered to a sample (N = 235) of college
students from a university in the Southeast. Results from the canonical correlation analysis revealed that perceived normative beliefs of closest friends of the same sex best explained dimensions of alcohol involvement. Perceptions of risk were associated with drinking involvement, although the direction of relationships was unexpectedly
positive. Implications for campus interventions are discussed.
Dunnagan, T., Haynes, G., Linkenbach, J, Summers, H. "Support for Social Norms Programming to Reduce Alcohol Consumption in Pregnant Women."
Addiction Research and Theory,August 2007; 15(4):383-396.
Abstract: This investigation examined the difference between the amount of alcohol consumed by pregnant Montana women (actual norms) and the amount they perceived was consumed by other Montana women of their same age (peers norms). On the basis of a stratified cluster sampling, 712 women completed a survey based on social norms theory. Results revealed that prior to the pregnancy women perceived that other women of their same age normally drank more than four times as much alcohol as they actually consumed. However, during their pregnancy women perceived that other women of their same age normally drank over 102 times as much alcohol as they actually consumed. Similar patterns were seen for the more than usual consumption. The results of the investigation showed a consistent and dramatic pattern of overestimation of peer alcohol use norms compared to actual norms. These findings support the application of intervention strategies designed to correct misperceptions of drinking norms in pregnant women as a way to reduce actual drinking rates.
McAlaney, J., McMahon, J., "Normative Beliefs, Misperceptions, and Heavy Episodic Drinking in a British Student Sample." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2007, 68: 228-237.
Objective: Numerous studies have demonstrated the existence and effect of normative misperceptions on heavy episodic drinking behavior. However, there has been little work on these processes or application of normative-belief interventions outside the U.S. college system. The aim of the current study, therefore, was to investigate heavy episodic drinking and normative misperceptions in a U.K. university setting. Method: An email containing a link to a survey Web site was distributed to all current undergraduate students at the University of Paisley, Scotland. In addition to age and gender questions, the survey contained items on students' personal behavior and perception of the level of that behavior in three groups of increasing social distance: close friends, other students of the same age, and other people of the same age in U.K. society in general. Results: Completed surveys from 500 respondents were returned. In keeping with previous research, significant correlations were found between the respondents' behavior and the perception of that behavior in others, with beliefs about the most proximal individuals being the most strongly correlated. The majority of respondents were also found to overestimate alcohol consumption in other students. An age effect was noted, in which misperceptions appeared to decrease with age but did not vary between genders. Conclusions: The findings of the study indicate that the normative-belief alcohol consumption processes that have been found on U.S. college campuses also operate in U.K. university settings. This raises the possibility of applying social-norms interventions from the United States to the United Kingdom and potentially elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, the study noted apparent age effects in the degree of misperception, the implications of which are discussed.
Chawla, N., Neighbors, C., Lewis, M.A., Lee, M.A., Larimer, M.A. "Attitudes and Perceived Approval of Drinking as Mediators of the Relationship Between the Importance of Religion and Alcohol Use" Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2007, 68(3): 410-418..
Objective: Previous research has consistently demonstrated that religiosity and personal importance of religion are associated with lower levels of alcohol use among both adolescents and college students. Although a number of different mechanisms have been proposed to account for this, few studies have empirically examined potential mediators of this relationship. Given the extensive literature on the impact of social norms on the drinking behavior of college students, the present study evaluates the role of perceived drinking norms as a mediator of the relationship between the importance of religion and alcohol use. Specifically, we examined both personal attitudes and perceived injunctive norms with regard to reference groups that vary in their proximity to students (i.e., close friends and typical college students). Method: Participants were 1,400 undergraduate students (60.6% women) who were assessed using self-report measures of alcohol consumption, importance of religion, attitudes, and perceived norms. Results: Results indicated that, consistent with the hypotheses, personal attitudes were the strongest mediator of the relationship between importance of religion and alcohol use, followed by the approval of close friends, and, to a lesser extent, the approval of typical college students. Conclusions: These findings suggest that importance of religion may have an indirect effect on alcohol use via personal attitudes and the perceived approval or disapproval of important others, and this relationship varies as a function of reference group. Implications for interventions that incorporate information on social norms are discussed.
Park. H.S, Smith, S.W., "Distinctiveness and Influence of Subjective Norms, Personal Descriptive and Injunctive Norms, and Societal Descriptive and Injunctive Norms on Behavioral Intent: A Case of Two Behaviors Critical to Organ Donation" Human Communication Research, 2007, 33(2):194-218.
The effects of the attitudinal, normative, and perceived behavioral control (PBC) components of the theory of planned behavior and personal- and societal-level descriptive and injunctive norms were investigated with regard to their impact on the intent to enroll on a state organ-donor registry and the intent to engage in family discussion about organ donation. The results indicated that the 5 types of norms were distinct across the 2 behaviors. Different types of norms served as predictors and as moderators for the 2 behavioral intentions. The effects of attitudes toward each behavior and PBC were moderated by personal descriptive norms for behavioral intention to sign and by subjective norms for behavioral intention to talk with family.
Goldstein, N.J., Griskevicius, V., and Cialdini, R.B., "Invoking Social Norms: A Social Psychology Perspective on Improving Hotels' Linen-Reuse Programs." Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 2007, 48(2): 145-150.
Social psychology theory can be applied to such mundane purposes as encouraging guests to reuse their washroom towels. In contrast to the appeals now in use to persuade guests to reuse their towels, research found that applying the norm of reciprocation and the descriptive norm for proenvironmental action improved guests' participation in one hotel's towel-reuse program. The implication is that such research ca also be applied to other areas of hotel operation to benefit businesses, consumers, and the environment.
Fisher, T.D., "Sex of Experimenter and Social Norm Effects on Reports of Sexual Behavior in Young Men and Women." Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2007, 36:1, 89-100.
Abstract: Past studies indicate that men generally report having had more sexual experience and sexual partners than women, as well as an earlier age at first intercourse. At least some of these findings may partially reflect different responses to certain contextual variables in research. College students (266 men and 463 women) were asked to anonymously report their sexual attitudes and behavior after reading one of three fictitious statements about research findings regarding gender differences in sexuality. Some past findings were replicated, with men reporting somewhat more sexual experience and more permissive sexual attitudes than women. However, women reported a significantly younger age at first intercourse than did men. While there was no significant sex difference for total number of sexual partners, there was a significant interaction. With female research assistants (but not with male assistants), men reported more sexual partners when they were told that women are now more sexually permissive than men. This finding appeared to be largely a function of the men who scored higher on measures of hypermasculinity and ambivalent sexism. Women's reports were not significantly affected by the wording of the cover sheet, regardless of the sex of the research assistant. Even in this anonymous survey, the sex of the experimenter and the nature of the statement about research findings had an impact on the sex differences that were found. In light of these results, some previous conclusions about male-female differences in sexual behavior may need to be examined more closely.
Lewis, M.A., and Neighbors, C., "Optimizing Personalized Normative Feedback: The Use of Gender-Specific Referents." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2007, 68(3):385-392..
Objective: Many brief interventions include personalized normative feedback (PNF) using gender-specific or gender-neutral referents. Several theories suggest that information pertaining to more socially proximal referents should have greater influence on one's behavior compared with more socially distal referents. The current research evaluated whether gender specificity of the normative referent employed in PNF related to intervention efficacy. Method: Following baseline assessment, 185 college students (45.2% women) were randomly assigned to one of three intervention conditions: gender-specific feedback, gender-neutral feedback, or assessment-only control. Immediately after completing measures of perceived norms, alcohol consumption, and gender identity, participants in the gender-neutral and gender-specific intervention conditions were provided with computerized information detailing their own drinking behavior, their perceptions of student drinking, and actual student drinking. Results: After a 1-month follow-up, the results indicated that normative feedback was effective in changing perceived norms and reducing alcohol consumption for both intervention groups for women and men. The results provide support, however, for changes in perceived gender-specific norms as a mediator of the effects of normative feedback on reduced drinking behavior for women only. Additionally, gender-specific feedback was found to be more effective for women higher in gender identity, relative to the gender-neutral feedback. A post-assessment follow-up telephone survey administered to assess potential demand characteristics corroborated the intervention effects. Conclusions: Results extend previous research documenting efficacy of computer delivered PNF. Gender specificity and gender identity appear to be important elements to consider for PNF intervention efficacy for women.
Neighbors, C., Fossos, N., Woods, B.A., Fabiano, P., Sledge, M., and Frost, D., "Social Anxiety as a Moderator of the Relationship Between Perceived Norms and Drinking." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2007, 68: 91-96.
Objective: College students overestimate the drinking of their peers, and the more they overestimate, the more they drink. The present research was designed to evaluate social anxiety as a moderator of the relationship between perceived norms and drinking among college men and women. Method: Participants included 1,217 first-year residence-hall students (62.8% women) who completed Web-based assessments of social anxiety, perceived norms, and self-reported drinking. Results: Results replicated previous research in that students overestimated the drinking of their peers (d = 0.75, p < .001). Students who had higher social anxiety drank somewhat more but did not differ from students who had lower social anxiety on perceived norms. However, the relationship between perceived norms and drinking was stronger among students who had higher social anxiety (d = 0.92, p < .001) relative to less socially anxious students (d = 0.02, p = NS). Higher levels of social anxiety were associated with a stronger relationship between perceived norms and drinking for both men (d = 0.86, p < .001) and women (d = 0.50, p < .001) but stronger for men (d = 0.26, p < .001). Conclusions: These results corroborate previous literature, which suggests that social factors are important determinants of drinking in this population and suggest that social anxiety is associated with susceptibility to peer influences on drinking. Additional work evaluating whether reductions in social anxiety may ameliorate the impact of perceived norms on drinking would be worthwhile.
Martens, M.P., Ferrier, A.G., and Cimini, M.D., "Do Protective Behavioral Strategies Mediate the Relationship Between Drinking Motives and Alcohol Use in College Students?." Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2007, 68: 106-114.
Objective: Heavy alcohol use among college students represents a public health problem on American college campuses. Use of protective behavioral strategies (PBS) has been shown to be related to reduced alcohol use and fewer alcohol-related problems, but the relationship of PBS to other alcohol-related constructs is unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the use of PBS mediated the relationship between positively and negatively reinforcing drinking motives and both alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. Method: Data were collected on 254 undergraduate students at a large, public university in the northeast region of the United States. Approximately one third (n = 90) of the participants were volunteers, whereas the remaining individuals enrolled in the study as an option for satisfying an alcohol-related campus judicial sanction. Results: Structural equation modeling analyses indicated that use of PBS partially mediated the relationships between positively reinforcing (i.e., social and enhancement) drinking motives and both alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. Use of PBS did not mediate the relationship between negatively reinforcing (i.e., coping) drinking motives and alcohol use or alcohol-related problems. The theoretical models accounted for 26% of the variance in alcohol use and 24% of the variance in alcohol-related problems. Conclusions: This study suggests that PBS should be incorporated into theoretical models devoted to understanding college student drinking.
Perkins, H.W. and Craig, D.W. "A Successful Social Norms Campaign to Reduce Alcohol Misuse Among College Student-Athletes." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2006, 67(6): 868-879.
Abstract: This study examines the impact of a social norms intervention to reduce alcohol misuse among student-athletes. The intervention was designed to reduce harmful misperceptions of peer norms and, in turn, reduce personal risk. Method: A comprehensive set of interventions communicating accurate local norms regarding alcohol use targeted student-athletes at an undergraduate college. An anonymous survey of all student-athletes was conducted annually for 3 years (2001: n == 414, 86% response; 2002: n = 373, 85% response; and 2003: n = 353, 79% response). A pre/post comparison of student-athletes was conducted separately for new and ongoing athletes at each point to isolate any general time period effects from intervention effects. A cross-sectional analysis of student-athletes with varying degrees of program exposure was also performed. Results: The intervention substantially reduced misperceptions of frequent alcohol consumption and high-quantity social drinking as the norm among student-athlete peers. During this same time period, frequent personal consumption, high estimated peak blood alcohol concentrations during social drinking, and negative consequences all declined by 30% or more among ongoing student athletes after program exposure. In contrast, no significant differences across time were seen for new student-athletes each year with low program exposure. Among student-athletes with the highest level of program exposure, indications of personal misuse were at least 50% less likely on each measure when compared with student-athletes with the lowest level of program exposure. Conclusions: This social norms intervention was highly effective in reducing alcohol misuse in this high-risk collegiate subpopulation by intensively delivering data-based messages about actual peer norms through multiple communication venues.
Haines, M.P., Barker, G., Rice, R. "The Personal Protective Behaviors of College Student Drinkers: Evidence of Indigenous Protective Norms." Journal of American College Health, 2006, 55(2):69-75.
Abstract: Given the prevalence of alcohol consumption and the relative infrequency of harm among college students, the authors sought to determine how most college students protect themselves from alcohol-related harm. An analysis of the aggregate National College Health Assessment data identified a cluster of personal protective behaviors that correlated with reduced risk when drinking. Further analysis revealed that nearly
three-quarters of student drinkers regularly employ at least 1 protective behavior, and well over half of the students who use protective behaviors routinely employ 2 or more. In addition, the data reveal that student drinkers employ situational abstinence, with nearly 7 out of 10 students reporting that they sometimes or usually refrain from drinking alcohol when they socialize. The use of these protective behaviors is a strong predictor of safety and harm for college student drinkers.
Neighbors, C., Lewis, M.A., Bergstrom, R.L, Larimer, M.E. "Being Controlled by Normative Influences: Self-Determination as a Moderator of a Normative Feedback Alcohol Intervention." Health Psychology, 2006, 25(5):571-579.
Abstract: "The objectives of this research were to evaluate the efficacy of computer-delivered personalized normative feedback among heavy drinking college students and to evaluate controlled orientation as a moderator of intervention efficacy. Participants (N=217) included primarily freshman and sophomore heavy drinking students who were randomly assigned to receive or not to receive personalized normative feedback immediately following baseline assessment. Perceived norms, number of drinks per week, and alcohol-related problems were the main outcome measures. Controlled orientation was specified as a moderator. At 2-month follow-up, students who received normative feedback reported drinking fewer drinks per week than did students who did not receive feedback, and this reduction was mediated by changes in perceived norms. The intervention also reduced alcohol-related negative consequences among students who were higher in controlled orientation. These results provide further support for computer-delivered personalized normative feedback as an empirically supported brief intervention for heavy drinking college students, and they enhance the understanding of why and for whom normative feedback is effective."
DeJong, W., Schneider, S.K., Towvim, L.G., Murphy, M.J., Doerr, E.E., Simonsen, N.R., Mason, K.E., and Scribner, R.A. " A Multisite Randomized Trial of Social Norms Marketing Campaigns to Reduce College Student Drinking." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2006, 67(6): 868-879.
Abstract: Objective: An 18-site randomized trial was conducted to determine the effectiveness of social norms marketing (SNM) campaigns in reducing college student drinking. The SNM campaigns are intended to correct misperceptions of subjective drinking norms and thereby drive down alcohol consumption. Method: Institutions of higher education were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. At the treatment group institutions, SNM campaigns delivered school-specific, data-driven messages through a mix of campus media venues. Cross-sectional student surveys were conducted by mail at baseline (n = 2,771) and at posttest 3 years later (n = 2,939). Hierarchical linear modeling was applied to examine multiple drinking outcomes, taking intraclass correlation into account. Results: Controlling for other predictors, having an SNM campaign was significantly associated with lower perceptions of student drinking levels and lower alcohol consumption, as measured by a composite drinking scale, blood alcohol concentration for recent maximum consumption, drinks consumed when partying, and drinks consumed per week. A moderate mediating effect of normative perceptions on student drinking was demonstrated by an attenuation of the Experimental Group x Time interaction, ranging from 16.4% to 39.5% across measures. Additional models that took into account the intensity of the SNM campaign activity at the treatment institutions suggested that there was a dose-response relationship. Conclusions: This study is the most rigorous evaluation of SNM campaigns conducted to date. Analysis revealed that students attending institutions that implemented an SNM campaign had a lower relative risk of alcohol consumption than students attending control group institutions.
Chia, S.C., Gunther, A.C. "How Media Contribute to Misperceptions of Social Norms About Sex." Mass Communication and Society, 2006, 9(3): 301-320.
Abstract: "In this study we examined how media contribute to college students' erroneous perceptions of peer norms and the consequence of such misperceptions. The data came from a survey of 312 college students. Results indicate that students believed that their peers were significantly more sexually permissive than was actually the case. The data suggested that they formed such erroneous impressions of peers based in part on their perceptions of media influence on peers. Some evidence also indicated that these misperceptions produced a significant impact on male college students, making them more likely to say they would engage in casual sexual activity and engage in it at an earlier stage in dating."
LaBrie, J.W., Lamb, T.F., Pedersen, E.R., and Quinlan, T. "A Group Motivational Interviewing Intervention Reduces Drinking and Alcohol-Related Consequences in Adjudicated College Students " Journal of College Student Development, May/June 2006, 47(3): 267-280.
Abstract: "This study examines the effectiveness of a single-session group motivational enhancement intervention with college students adjudicated for violation of alcohol policy. The intervention consisted of a Timeline Followback assessment of drinking, social norms re-education, decisional balance for behavior change, relapse prevention, expectancy challenge, and the generation of behavioral goals. All participants evidenced significant reductions in drinking from baseline through one and three month follow-up. Male participants and frequent binge drinkers showed the largest and most sustained reductions in drinking behavior. The results of this study provide tentative evidence for the effectiveness of group motivational enhancement interventions with adjudicated students."
Corral-Verdugo, V. and Frias-Armenta, Martha. "Personal Normative Beliefs, Antisocial Behavior, and Residential Water Conservation." Envionment and Behavior, 2006, 38(3):406-421.
Abstract: "A total of 177 residents in two Mexican cities responded to an instrument assessing (a) personal normative beliefs about water conservation, (b) beliefs about the efficacy of water conservation laws, (c) the tendency to break social norms (anti-social behavior), and (d) private water conservation behavior (self-reported). The data were processed within a structural equation model that specified the above effects. Results showed that personal normative beliefs had a positive effect on water conservation, whereas antisocial behavior inhibited that conservation, and beliefs in the inefficacy of water conservation laws produced no effect on water conservation practices. Significant and negative covariances between antisocial behavior and normative beliefs in the inefficacy of water consumption laws resulted. Conversely, normative beliefs and beliefs in the inefficacy of water laws covaried positively."
Smith, S., Atkin, C., Martell, D., Allen, R., Hembroff, L. "A Social Judgment Theory Approach to Conducting Formative Research in a Social Norms Campaign." Communication Theory, 2006, 16:141-152.
Abstract: "The social norms approach predicts that campaign messages providing true normative information about widely misperceived health behaviors will reduce the gap between distorted perceptions versus actual practices and consequently reduce behaviors based on exaggerated norms. Formative evaluation of messages designed to effectively convey true norms informed by social judgment theory (SJT) should measure the boundaries of the latitudes of acceptance, noncommitment, and rejection for normative information. This study found that these latitudes were significantly different from one another in believability. SJT predicts that a campaign based on a norm falling in the latitude of noncommitment will be likely to be effective. A series of messages using the true norm, which fell within the latitude of noncommitment, were part of a campaign. The gap in perceived versus actual drinking and the difference in perceived number of drinks was reduced, while self-reports of consumption of five or fewer drinks increased significantly."
Gunther, A., Bolt, D., Borzekowski, G., Liebhart, J. Price Dillard, J. "Presumed Influence on Peer Norms: How Mass Media Indirectly Affect Adolescent Smoking." Journal of Communication, 2006, 56(1):52-68.
Abstract: "In the context of adolescent smoking adoption, this study examined the presumed influence hypothesis, a theoretical model suggesting that smoking-related media content may have a significant indirect influence on adolescent smoking via its effect on perceived peer norms. That is, adolescents may assume that smoking-related messages in the mass media will influence the attitudes and behaviors of their peers and these perceptions in turn can influence adolescents' own smoking behaviors. Analyzing data from a sample of 818 middle school students, we found that both pro- and anti-smoking messages indirectly influenced smoking susceptibility through their perceived effect on peers. However, this indirect effect was significantly stronger for pro-smoking messages than for antismoking messages, an outcome that most likely increases adolescents' susceptibility to cigarettes."
Weiss J. W, Garbanati J.A. " Effects of acculturation and social norms on adolescent smoking among asian-american subgroups." Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse,
Abstract: "This study provides new information about how acculturation and perceived social norms affect adolescents smoking among four Asian-American subgroups. Results showed differences in smoking prevalence rates across subgroups, with Koreans having the highest rates of smoking, while Chinese have the lowest rates. In contrast to the large gender disparity in the ancestral countries, smoking rates were equal for Asian-American boys and girls. Acculturation was significantly associated with an increased risk for lifetime smoking for Asian-American girls, but not for boys. Perceived social norms regarding peer smoking were significantly associated with smoking behaviors for both genders and for all subgroups."
Linkenbach, J., Perkins, H.W. "Montana's MOST of Us Don't Drink and Drive Campaign: A Social Norms Strategy to Reduce Impaired Driving Among 21-34-Year-Olds." National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Publication: DOT HS 809 869
An online version in HTML format is available at:
An online version in PDF format is available at:
Abstract: "This report presents the results of a demonstration project to test the efficacy of a high-intensity social norms media intervention to reduce the prevalence of driving after drinking among 21 to 34-year-olds living in western Montana. A baseline survey was conducted to collect self-reported data on the target population's behavior with respect to impaired driving, as well as on their perceptions of the behavior of their peers. Normative messages and media were developed from these data. Each survey gathered information on respondents' exposure to the campaign message, and on their perceptions and reported behaviors regarding driving after drinking. The campaign successfully reduced the target population's misperceptions of the frequency of impaired driving among their peers. The change in perceptions was associated with a change in reported behavior. In the target area there was a 13.7-percent relative decrease in the percentage that reported driving after drinking and a 15-percent relative increase in the percentage that reported always using non-drinking designated drivers. A high-intensity paid media social norms intervention can be successful on a statewide scale, across a wide variety of measures including perceptions, reported behaviors, attitudes, and support for policy. However, additional research is warranted to corroborate the self-reported behaviors with changes in the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of arrested drivers or numbers of alcohol-related fatalities."
Lewis, M.A., Neighbors, C. "Social Norms Approaches Using Descriptive Drinking Norms Education: A Review of the Research on Personalized Normative Feedback," Journal of American College Health, 2006, 54(4): 213-218.
Abstract: "College students have been shown to consistently overestimate the drinking of their peers. As a result, social norms approaches are effective in correcting these misperceived norms to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. In this review of the literature, the authors critically evaluated the effectiveness of personalized normative feedback. In addition, the authors reviewed personalized normative feedback interventions and provided suggestions for increasing the efficacy of these interventions by making better use of salient referent group data."
Bohner, G., Siebler, F., Schmelcher, J. "Social Norms and the Likelihood of Raping: Perceived Rape Myth Acceptance of Others Affects Men's Rape Proclivity." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2006, 32(3):286-297.
Excerpt [p. 293]: "The current research further corroborates the role of rape myths as a factor facilitating sexual aggression. Taken together, our findings suggest that salient ingroup norms may be important determinants of the professed willingness to engage in sexually aggressive behavior. Our studies go beyond quasi-experimental and correlational work that had shown a close relationship between RMA [rape myth acceptance] and rape proclivity (RP) as well as our own previous experimental studies, which have shown that individual's RMA to causally affect RP. They demonstrate that salient information about others' RMA may cause differences in men's self-reported proclivity to exert sexual violence. Experiment 1 provides additional evidence on how this influence is mediated: It shows that the perceived RMA of others may increase or lower men's rape proclivity by temporarily increasing or lowering their own RMA. In Experiment 2, where own RMA was assessed before participants were exposed to RMA feedback, both independent and interactive effects of the two variables on self-reported rape proclivity were observed. Thus, our studies confirm that RMA may indeed function as a social norm as originally conceived by Burt (1980)."
Peterson, J.L., and Bakeman, R. "Impact of Beliefs about HIV Treatment and Peer Condom Norms on Risky Sexual Behavior among Gay and Bisexual Men." Journal of Community Psychology, 2006, 34(1):37-46.
Abstract: "The association between perceptions about condom use among one's peers, beliefs about new HIV treatments, and HIV sexual risk behavior was examined in a large urban sample (n = 454) of gay and bisexual men in the Southeast. Results partially confirmed the hypothesis that men who endorsed new HIV treatment beliefs would report lower norms for condom use and higher HIV sexual risk behaviors than men who failed to endorse HIV treatment beliefs but with casual, and not main, partners. Moreover, results confirmed the hypothesis that the association between HIV treatment beliefs and unprotected sex would be partially mediated by peer condom norms. Results suggest social interventions are needed to promote condom norms in the social context of new HIV treatments."
The American College Health Association. "American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) Spring 2004 Reference Group Data Report (Abridged)." Journal of American College Health, 2006, 54(4): 201-211.
Abstract: "Assessing and understanding the health needs and capacities of college students is paramount to creating healthy campus communities. The American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) is a survey instrument developed by the NCHA in 1998 to assist institutions of higher education in achieving this goal. The ACHA-NCHA contains approximately 300 questions assessing student health status and health problems, risk and protective behaviors, access to health information, impediments to academic performance, and perceived norms across a variety of content areas, including injury prevention; personal safety and violence; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; sexual health; weight, nutrition, and exercise; and mental health. Twice a year, the ACHA compiles aggregate data from participating institutions in a reference group report for data comparison. Results from the Spring 2004 Reference Group (N = 47,202) are presented in this article."
Boyle, J.R., Boekeloo, B.O. "Perceived Parental Approval of Drinking and its Impact on Problem Drinking Behaviors among First-Year College Students." Journal of American College Health, 2006, 54(4): 238-244.
Abstract: There is a paucity of research investigating the impact that parents may have on college drinking. In this study, the authors investigated the relationship between students' perceptions of parent approval of drinking and problem drinking occurrence. They conducted a Web-based survey of 265 first-year students living on campus during their second semester. The authors used logistic regression to examine the relationship between students' perceptions of their mothers' and fathers' attitudes toward their drinking, their mothers' and fathers' drinking habits, and problem drinking since they had begun college. Sixty-nine percent of respondents reported experiencing at least one drinking problem. Over one-third of students perceived that their parents would approve of them drinking occasionally. Students perceiving more parental approval for their drinking were more likely to report at least one drinking problem. Student perceptions of parental approval of drinking warrant further investigation as a potentially mutable correlate of problem drinking."
Mallett, K., Lee, C.M., Neighbors, C., Larimer, M.E., and Turrisi, R. "Do We Learn from Our Mistakes? An Examination of the Impact of Negative Alcohol-Related Consequences on College Students' Drinking Patterns and Perceptions." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2006, 67(2): 269-276.
Kilmer, J.R., Walker, D.D., Lee, C.M., Palmer, R.S., Mallett, K.A., Fabiano, P., and Larimer, M.E. "Misperceptions of College Student Marijuana Use: Implications for Prevention." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2006, 67(2): 277-281.
Abstract: Objective: This study investigates the relationship between marijuana use, perceived norms of use by friends and students in general, and negative experiences or problems from alcohol and drug use. It was hypothesized that students would overestimate the marijuana use of students in general and that perceptions about the prevalence of marijuana use would be related to drug-related consequences. Method: In this study, 5,990 participants provided information on the perceptions and consequences of drug use via an online survey or via a paper-based survey. Results: Although two-thirds of participants reported no marijuana use, 98% of respondents incorrectly predicted that students in general use marijuana at least once per year. Perceptions of use by friends and students in general accounted for variance in drug use and related problems or experiences. Conclusions: Given the relationship between norm misperception and behavior with marijuana use, future research could explore the impact of targeting misperceived norms through prevention and intervention efforts.
Neighbors, C., Oster-Aaland, L., Bergstrom, R.L., and Lewis, M.A. "Event- and Context-Specific Normative Misperceptions and High-Risk Drinking: 21st Birthday Celebrations and Football Tailgating." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2006, 67(2): 282-289.
Abstract: Objective: Negative alcohol-related consequences often occur during specific events and in specific contexts (e.g., 21st birthday celebrations and tailgating parties). A lack of available event- and context-specific interventions suggests the need to better understand factors associated with heavy drinking in these contexts, with an eye toward developing specific interventions. The purpose of this research was to lay the foundation for developing personalized normative feedback interventions for 21st birthday celebratory drinking and tailgating drinking by evaluating whether students overestimate norms in these specific contexts, as they do more generally. Method: Perceived descriptive norms and alcohol consumption were assessed at event- and context-specific levels in two studies. Study 1 included 119 students turning 21 years old who reported their 21st birthday drinking behavior and estimated the typical number of drinking consumed by students celebrating their 21st birthday. Study 2 included 140 undergraduates drawn from a stratified sample who reported their behavior regarding drinking and tailgaiting and their perceived norms for typical drinking and tailgaiting behavior. Results: Results from Study 1 revealed that students overestimated peer drinking during 21st birthday celebrations, and this overestimation was associated with heavier drinking on one's own 21st birthday. In Study 2, students underestimated the percentage of tailgaiters who drank but overestimated typical consumption. Overestimation was consistently associated with heavier drinking during tailgaiting. Conclusions: Successful correction of general normative misperceptions for specific events and contexts provided by these results represents an important step in developing event- and context-specific interventions utilizing specific normative feedback.
Neighbors, C., Dillard, A.J., Lewis, M.A., Bergstrom, R.L., and Neil, T.A. "Normative Misperceptions and Temporal Precedence of Perceived Norms and Drinking."Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2006, 67(2): 290-299.
Abstract: Objective: Previous research has shown that students overestimate the drinking of their peers, and that perceived norms are strongly associated with drinking behavior. Explanations for these findings have been based largely on cross-sectional data, precluding the ability to evaluate the stability of normative misperceptions or to disentangle the direction of influence between perceived norms and drinking. The present research was designed to evaluate (1) the stability of normative misperceptions and (2) temporal precedence of perceived norms and drinking. Method: Participants were college students ( N = 164; 94 women) who completed assessments of perceived norms and reported behavior for drinking frequency and weekly quantity. Most participants (68%) completed the same measures again two months later. Results: Results indicated large and stable overestimations of peer drinking for frequency and weekly quantity. Results also showed that for weekly quantity,, perceived norms predicted later drinking, but drinking also predicted later perceived norms. Results for frequency revealed norms predicted later drinking, but drinking did not predict later perceived norms. Conclusions: These findings underscore the importance of longitudinal designs in evaluating normative influences on drinking. The present findings suggest that normative misperceptions are stable, at least over a relatively short time period. Findings support a mutual influence model of the relationship between perceived norms and drinking quantity but are more strongly associated with conformity explanations for the relationship between perceived norms and drinking frequency. Results are discussed in terms of implications for prevention interventions.
Cho, H. "Readiness to change, norms, and self-efficacy among heavy-drinking college students." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2006, 67(1): 131-138.
Abstract: Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between the readiness to change of college heavy drinkers and their normative and self-efficacy beliefs. Method: A multiple regression model analyzed the association in a heavy-drinker subsample (n = 306; men = 53.3%) drawn from a survey of a convenience sample of college students in two large-size midwestern universities. Results: Precontemplation was most strongly associated with the descriptive and injunctive norms of campus peers as well as friends. Contemplation was significantly associated with descriptive and injunctive norms of friends. The size of the association between readiness and normative beliefs decreased as the readiness progressed. Both precontemplation and contemplation were negatively associated with self-efficacy. Conclusions: Differences in readiness to change are related to different normative and self-efficacy beliefs to different degrees. Incorporating these differences could improve the effectiveness of future interventions. In particular, addressing friends' norms in addition to campus norms could increase self-efficacy and facilitate the behavioral change process of college heavy drinkers.
Wight, D., Plummer, M.L., Mshana, G., et al. "Contradictory Sexual Norms and Expectations for Young People in Rural Northern Tanzania." Social Science and Medicine, 2006, 6:987-997.
Abstract: "There has been a long-running debate as to whether sexual cultures in sub-Saharan Africa are permissive or characterised by restrictive rules, rituals, and self-restraint. This paper, based on participant observation data, outlines the main features of a sexual culture in rural northern Tanzania and highlights both permissive and restrictive norms and expectations for young people. It also illustrates how sexual beliefs are socially constructed and subject to social change. Sexual activity is constrained by clear norms of school pupil abstinence, female sexual respectability and taboos around the discussion of sex. However, these norms are incompatible with several widely held expectations: that sexual activity is inevitable unless prevented, sex is a female resource to be exploited, restrictions on sexual activity are relaxed at festivals, and masculine esteem is boosted through sexual experience. Differential commitment to these norms and expectations reflects conflicts between generations and genders. Young people appear to manage the contradictions in these norms by concealing their sexual relationships. This almost certainly contributes to their short duration and the high levels of partner change, since relationships are not reinforced through social recognition and there is little scope to develop intimacy through non-sexual contacts."
Perkins, H. W., Haines, M. P., and Rice, R. "Misperceiving the
College Drinking Norm and Related Problems: A Nationwide Study of Exposure
to Prevention Information, Perceived Norms and Student Alcohol Misuse."
Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2005, 66:470-478.
Abstract. Objective: This study examined (1) the prevalence of
misperceptions of college student drinking norms across campuses nationwide,
(2) the importance of perceived norms in predicting high-risk
drinking, (3) the association of exposure to alcohol education information
with students' perceptions of campus drinking norms and (4) the
differences in high-risk drinking rates between schools where exposure
to alcohol information is associated with more accurately perceived
norms and schools where exposure to information is unrelated to perceptions
or is associated with greater misperceptions. Method: Multivariate
analyses were used to analyze an aggregate database of the
National College Health Assessment survey administered to 76,145 students
from 130 colleges and universities nationwide from spring 2000
through spring 2003. Results: Regardless of the actual campus drinking
norm, a consistently large percentage of students nationwide overestimated
the quantity of alcohol consumed by their peers. Students' perception
of their campus drinking norm was the strongest predictor of
the amount of alcohol personally consumed in comparison with the influence
of all demographic variables. Perception of the norm was also
a much stronger predictor when compared with the actual campus norm.
Reduced levels of high-risk drinking and negative consequences were found among
students attending the relatively few schools where exposure to prevention
information was associated with less exaggerated perceptions of the
drinking norm compared with students attending other schools. Conclusions:
Misperceived drinking norms are a pervasive problem. Schools
that do not seek to reduce these misperceptions with their prevention
information are neglecting a potentially powerful component of prevention.
Taylor, C. A., and Sorensen, S.B. "Community-based norms about intimate partner violence: Putting attributions of fault and responsibility into context." Sex Roles, 53(7/8):573-589.
Abstract: "Fault and responsibility are key concepts in understanding how victims and assailants are, or are not, held accountable to society. We used fractional factorial vignette design with a community-residing sample of 3,679 adults to examine judgments about intimate partner violence (IPV). Although fault, or causal responsibility, was assigned most often to assailants (69%), respondents assigned solution responsibility most often to both persons (52%) or to the victim alone (31%): interpersonal communication for couples (38%) and self-protective actions for victims (i.e., engaging formal authorities [12%] and/or leaving the assailant [11%]) were the most frequent suggestions. Potential injury to the victim and gender/relationship-based norms had the greatest impact on judgments."
West, S.L., Graham, C.W. "A survey of substance abuse prevention efforts at Virginia's colleges and universities."
Journal of American College Health, 2005, 54(3):185-191.
Abstract: "The extremes of college student substance use and the negative consequences students face as a result of such use are of great public health concern. Although a multitude of campus-based substance abuse prevention efforts have appeared in the literature, a clear picture of the programs and policies currently at use at college and universities is not readily available. This research was undertaken to detail both the efforts aimed at general student samples and those targeting at-risk (e.g., Greeks, student athletes) and historically underserved student groups at colleges and universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. While a variety of efforts were being made, there was a reliance on program orientations with limited scientific support. Four-year institutions used a wider array of outlets for their prevention messages. Targeted programs for at-risk groups were common but were largely unavailable specifically for ethnic minority students and students with disabilities."
Fergus, S, Zimmerman, M.A. "Adolescent resilience: a framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk."
Annual Review of Public Health, 2005, 26:399-419.
Abstract:"Adolescent resilience research differs from risk research by focusing on the assets and resources that enable some adolescents to overcome the negative effects of risk exposure. We discuss three models of resilience (the compensatory, protective, and challenge models) and describe how resilience differs from related concepts. We describe issues and limitations related to resilience and provide an overview of recent resilience research related to adolescent substance abuse, violent behavior, and sexual risk behavior. We then discuss implications that resilience research has for intervention and describe some resilience-based interventions."
"Violent values, conduct norms, and youth aggression: A multilevel study in Iceland.
" The Sociological Quarterly, 2005, 46:457-478.
Abstract: The subculture of violence approach suggests that group adherence to values and norms that
encourage violence influence aggressive behavior through two analytically separate processes: (1)
internalization of values encouraging violence, and (2) social control stemming from others' adherence
to conduct norms. While some attention has been paid to the former process, the research has
rarely addressed the latter. We examine the individual-level and contextual effects of values that
encourage violence and perceived conduct norms on youth aggression in Iceland. The results indicate
that group adherence to violent values and norms influences aggression through social control
as well as internalization (socialization), lending cross-cultural support to the subculture of violence perspective.
Linnan, L., LaMontagne, A.D., Stoddard, A., Emmons, K.M., and Sorensen, G. "Norms and their relationship to behavior
in worksite settings: An application of the Jackson Return Potential Model." American Journal of Health Behavior, 2005, 29(3):258-268.
Objectives: To measure health norms and assess their influence on behavior among 2541 employees
in 16 manufacturing worksites using an adapted Jackson's Return Potential Model (RPM). Methods:
Worksite-level norm intensity, crystallization, and normative power were calculated for
several behaviors; linear regression analyses tested whether normative power was related to each
health behavior. Results: Norms about safe work practices and smoking were most intense; norms about safe work practices were most crystallized. Safe work practices and smoking held the highest normative power; healthy eating held the least normative power. Conclusions: Comparing norm characteristics across health behaviors leads to important leverage points for intervening to influence norms and improve worker health.
Eisenberg, M.E., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., and Perry , C. "The role of social norms and friends' influences on unhealthy weight-control behaviors among adolescent girls." Social Science & Medicine
Abstract: Dieting is common among adolescent girls and may place them at risk of using unhealthy weight-control behaviors (UWCBs), such as self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diet pills, or fasting. Research has suggested that social factors, including friends and broader cultural norms, may be associated with UWCBs. The present study examines the relationship between the school-wide prevalence of current weight loss efforts among adolescent girls, friends' dieting behavior, and UWCBs, and investigates differences in these associations across weight categories. Survey data were collected in 31 middle and high schools in ethnically and socio-economically diverse communities in Minnesota, USA. The response rate was 81.5%. Rates of UWCBs were compared across the spectrum of prevalence of trying to lose weight and friends' involvement with dieting, using ?2 analysis and multivariate logistic regression, controlling for demographic factors and clustering by school. Girls with higher body mass index (BMI) were more likely to engage in UWCBs than those of lower BMI. Multivariate models indicated that friends' dieting behavior was significantly associated with UWCBs for average weight girls (OR=1.57, CI=1.40-1.77) and moderately overweight girls (OR=1.47, CI=1.19-1.82). The school-wide prevalence of trying to lose weight was significantly, albeit modestly, related to UWCBs for average weight girls (15th-85th percentile; OR=1.17, CI=1.01-1.36), and marginally associated for modestly overweight girls (85th-95th percentile; OR=1.21, CI=.97-1.50), even after controlling for friends' dieting behaviors. The social influences examined here were not associated with UWCBs among underweight (<15th percentile) or overweight (>95th percentile) girls. Findings suggest that social norms, particularly from within one's peer group, but also at the larger school level may influence UWCBs, particularly for average weight girls. Implications for school-based interventions to reduce UWCBs are discussed.
Davison, G.C. "An Evaluation of A Brief HIV/AIDS Prevention Intervention for
College Students Using Normative Feedback and Goal Setting." AIDS Education and
Abstract: This study evaluated the ability of a 20-minute self-administered intervention to increase HIV/AIDS risk reduction among sexually active college students. The intervention presented normative data on the relatively low prevalence of HIV risk behaviors among college students for the purpose of conveying the idea that risk reduction was the prevailing social norm among their same sex peers. The intervention also invited students to select specific risk reduction goals to be implemented over a 30-day follow-up period. Participants (N=155) were assigned in alternating order to receive either the intervention or a control condition that entailed reading a general AIDS information pamphlet. Results were partially moderated by gender. Compared with controls, men in the intervening group reported significantly higher condom use, whereas women in the intervention group reported significantly fewer sexual partners.
Wenzel, M. "Motivation or Rationalisation? Causal Relations between Ethics, Norms and Tax Compliance." Journal of Economic Psychology, 2005,26:491-508.
Abstract: This study investigated whether tax ethics and social norms constitute true motivations for tax compliance, or whether they are mere rationalisations of self-interested behaviour. Cross-lagged panel analyses were applied to data from a two-wave survey with 1161 Australian citizens. First, results showed that tax ethics causally affected tax compliance and were affected by levels of compliance. Second, perceived social norms causally affected personally held tax ethics, but only for respondents who identified strongly with the respective group. At the same time, personal ethics were also projected onto the perceived normative beliefs of the social group. Third, perceived norms causally affected tax compliance, partly mediated by their effect on personal ethics. Conversely, tax compliance also affected the perception of norms. Overall, the study provides evidence for a complex role of individual ethics and social norms in tax-paying behaviour.
Werner, N.E., Nixon, C.L.
"Normative Beliefs and Relational Aggression: An Investigation of the Cognitive Bases of Adolescent Aggressive Behavior." Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2005:34(3),229-243.
Abstract: The relations between normative beliefs about different forms of aggression and corresponding aggressive behaviors were investigated in 2 studies of adolescents. In Study 1, we revised an instrument designed to assess normative beliefs about aggression to include beliefs about the acceptability of relational aggression, and we examined the psychometric properties of the instrument. In Studies 1 and 2, the unique associations of normative beliefs about relational and physical aggression with self-reported relational and physical aggression were examined. Findings across both studies revealed that beliefs-behavior associations were specific to aggression forms. In other words, beliefs about relational aggression were uniquely associated with engagement in relationally aggressive acts, whereas beliefs about physical aggression, but not relational aggression, contributed unique information about adolescents' level of physical aggression. No gender effects were found. Results are discussed with a social-cognitive framework, and implications are explored for future prevention and intervention efforts to reduce aggressive behaviors.
Sorensen, S.B., Taylor, C.A. "Female Aggression Toward Male Intimate Partners: An Examination of Social Norms in a Community-Based Sample." Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2005, 29:78-96.
Abstract: We investigated the effect of assailant gender on injunctive social norms (i.e., beliefs about what ought to happen) regarding violence toward an intimate heterosexual partner. In a random-digit-dialed survey conducted in four languages, 3,769 community-residing adults were presented with five vignettes in which we experimentally manipulated characteristics using multivariate logistic regressions. Judgments about women's violence against male intimates (vs. men's violence against female intimates) were less harsh and took contextual factors more fully into account. The type of violence and the presence of a weapon played a central rol in respondent judments. Respondent demographic characteristics were largely unrelated to their judgments.
Lapinski, M.K., Rimal, R.N.
"An Explication of Social Norms." Communication Theory, 2005, 15(2):127-147.
Abstract: This article identifies four factors for consideration in norms-based research to enhance predictive ability of theoretical models. First, it makes the distinction between perceived and collective norms and between descriptive and injunctive norms. Second, the article addresses the role of important moderators in the relationship between descriptive norms and behaviors, including outcome expectations, group identity, and ego involvement. Third, it discusses the role of both interpersonal and mass communication in normative influences. Lastly, it outlines behavioral attributes that determine susceptibility to normative influences, including behavioral ambiguity and the public or private nature of behavior.
Macauly, A.P., Griffin, K.W., Gronewold, E., Williams, C., Botvin, G.J. " Parenting Practices and Adolescent Drug-Related Knowledge, Attitudes, Norms and Behavior." Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 2005, 49(2):67-83.
Abstract: The current study explored the relationships between parenting practices and adolescent drug use. Suburban middle school students (N=2129) completed surveys that included measures of perceived parental monitoring, discipline and setting an anti-drug message as well as measures of drug-related knowledge, attitudes, and peer norms. Results indicated that effective parenting practices had a direct protective effect in terms of adolescent drug use and that the protective effect of parenting practices remained significant after including the effects of parenting on adolescent drug-related knowledge, attitudes, and perceived norms in a structural equation model. These findings suggest that effective parenting practices have a robust protective effect on youth drug use via multiple pathways that extend beyond parenting effects on the most proximal predictors of adolescent drug use.
Walters, S. T. and Neighbors, N. "Feedback Interventions for College Alcohol Misuse: What, Why, and for Whom?" Addictive Behaviors, 2005, 30:1168-1182.
Abstract: In response to the persistent problem of college drinking, universities
have instituted a range of alcohol intervention programs for students.
Motivational feedback is one intervention that has garnered support in the
literature and been adopted on college campuses. This article reviews published
outcome studies that have utilized feedback as a major component of an alcohol
intervention for college students. Overall, 11 of 13 reviewed studies (77%) found
a significant reduction in drinking as compared to a control or comparison group. While the studies varied widely in terms of population, follow-up period, and feedback content, it appears that feedback can be effective whether delivered by mail, the Internet, or via face-to-face motivational interview. Feedback seems to change normative perceptions of drinking and may be more effective among students who drink for social reasons. The addition of a group or individual counseling session does not appear to increase the short-term impact of the feedback.
Agostinelli, G. and Grube, J. "Effects of Presenting Heavy Drinking Norms on Adolescents' Prevalence Estimates, Evaluative Judgments, and Perceived Standards." Prevention Science, 2005, Vol. 6, No. 2:89-99.
Abstract: Correcting Normative information about the prevalence of heavy drinking is a key element in many prevention programs. To isolate the influence of normative information on older high school students' (n=230) alcohol-related judgments, the effects of delivering normative information in different contexts (no normative information, normative information only, normative information plus a self-focusing comparison to one's drinking) and under different measurement conditions (public, private) were examined. First, relative to presenting no norms, presenting norms both with and without a self-focus reduced the underestimation of the percent of high school students who never drink heavily. Second, the effects on both positive and negative evaluations of heavy drinking were examined independently. Heavy drinking students more strongly endorsed positive evaluations of heavy drinking than did non-heavy drinking students, but the self-serving bias was limited to the normative information only condition. Normative information failed to impact negative evaluations of heavy drinking for students at all drinking levels. Third, in judging the acceptable number of heavy drinking days approved by others, presenting the normative information in both contexts (relative to presenting no norms) led to more conservative judgments. Yet, only the normative context that added self-focus to the norm led students to adopt more conservative personal standards for the acceptable number of heavy drinking days. Finally, public versus private measurement did not affect any of the dependent variables. The findings are discussed as they relate to confrontational versus empathic styles in delivering interventions.
Lewis, T.F. and Thombs, D.L. "Perceived Risks and Normative Beliefs as Explanatory Models for College Student Alcohol Involvement: An Assessment of a Campus with Conventional Alcohol Control Policies and Enforcement Practices." NASPA Journal, 2005, 42(2):202-222.
Abstract: The aim of this study was to conduct a multivariate assessment of college student drinking motivations at a campus with conventional alcohol control policies and enforcement practices, including the establishment and dissemination of alcohol policies and the use of warnings to arouse fear of sanctions. Two explanatory models were compared: perceptions of risk and normative beliefs. An anonymous questionnaire was administered to 1,396 students at a large Midwestern university. Data analyses were conducted on the subsample of participants who had reported using alcohol within the past 12 months (n=1,322). Overall, the results from a canonical correlation analysis indicated that alcohol involvement was best explained by normative beliefs about drinking practices of one's closest friends. Perceptions of drinking risk were less important to the explanation of alcohol involvement, and some of these measures unexpectedly had positive associations with indicators of alcohol risk behavior. The findings call into question the conventional deterrence strategies used in many university communities (i.e., belief that students perceive there to be a low risk of receiving sanctions were those most likely to engage in alcohol-related misbehavior). Furthermore, the findings suggest that effective interventions will need to impact students' normative beliefs about the drinking practices of proximal peer groups.
Ott, C.H., Cashin, S., Altekruse, M. "Development and Validation of the College Tobacco Survey." Journal of American College Health, 2005, 53(5):231-238.
Abstract: The authors report on the development and assessment of an instrument to measure baseline campus cigarette use and outcomes from prevention programs, including those using a social norms approach combined with environmental policy change. They administered the 37-item College Tobacco Survey (CTS) to a convenience sample of 1,279 college students in freshmen-level classes at a large urban university. Factor analysis of 15 belief items revealed 3 factors: Peer Environment, Personal Effects, and Campus Policy Endorsement. The findings support the survey's reliability and validity. The authors discuss potential uses of the survey in terms of social norms and environmental prevention programs.
Ott, C. H., & Doyle, L. H. "An Evaluation of the Small Group Norms
Challenging Model: Changing Substance Use Misperceptions in Five Urban High
Schools." The High School Journal, 2005, 88:45-55.
Abstract: According to social norms theory, when high school students overestimate the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) by their peers, they tend to use more themselves. The purpose of this study was to determine whether these overestimations (misperceptions) could be corrected through a similar age peer-to-peer interactive social norms approach based on the Small Group Norms-Challenging Model. The sample included 414 adolescents in health classes in five urban high schools. Baseline data were retrieved from the school district's Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Perception change was measured with items adapted from the YRBS. Results indicate a significant decrease in misperceptions from pretest to posttest. Student responses to open-ended questions indicate increased awareness of ATOD issues, positive plans for behavioral change, and positive program evaluation. Implications for the use of the social norms approach is presented for high school teachers and administrators.
American College Health Association."The American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), Spring 2003 Reference Group Report." Journal of American College Health, 2005, 53(5):199-210.
Abstract: Assessing and understanding the health needs and capacities of college students is paramount to creating healthy campus communities. The American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) is a survey instrument developed by the American College Health Association (ACHA) in 1998 to assist institutions of higher education in achieving this goal. The ACHA-NCHA contains approximately 300 questions assessing student health status and health problems, risk and protective behaviors, access to health information, impediments to academic performance, and perceived norms across a variety of content areas, including injury prevention; personal safety and violence; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; sexual health; weight, nutrition, and exercise; and mental health. Twice a year, ACHA compiles aggregate data from institutions using the ACHA-NCHA to provide a reference group for data comparison. A portion of the data from the Spring 2003 Reference Group is provided in this article for use by professionals, researchers, institutions, departments, and organizations invested in advancing the health of college students.
Haines, M. "Habituation and Social Norms." The Report on Social Norms, 2005, 4(7):1,3,8.
(Note: A PDF copy of this article is available by clicking on the title.)
Excerpt: "Anyone experienced with applying social marketing concepts to correct misperceived social norms knows that delivering credible true norm messages consistently and frequently is a key to success. Is it possible to overdo the marketing, overdose our audience, turn them against us? The answer is "yes" and when we do that it is called habituation by professional advertisers. Habituation can reduce the effectiveness of a social norms campaign or even cause it to fail." The article describes the stages and causes of habituation, as well as solutions to it.
Braxton, J. and Caboni, T. "Using Student Norms to Create Positive Learning Environments." About Campus, January-February, 2005: 2-7.
Excerpt: "College and university administrators, faculty, and staff members often invest considerable time and effort in the formulation and modification of institutional policies and practices designed to foster campus environments favorable to student learning. Such policies and practices frequently offer much hope. However, the success or failure of such policies and practices depends on student acceptance and compliance. Knowledge and understanding of the norms espoused by student peer groups thus provide powerful tools for the formulation of such policies and practices."
Dworkin, J. "Risk Taking as Developmentally Appropriate Experimentation for College Students." Journal of Adolescent Research, 2005, 20 (2):219-241.
Abstract: Researchers have suggested that experimentation may be a necessary, constructive component of identity formation. However, these researchers have also noted the paradox of risk taking: an individual may experience both positive and negative precursors and consequences of risk taking. The present investigation used qualitative methods to explore the personal meaning of experimentation behaviors and of this paradox to college students. A stratified sample of 12 community college students (6 female) and 20 university students (10 female) was interviewed. Data were analyzed using grounded theory methods. Students described a deliberate and functional process of experimenting with a variety of risk behaviors. This included articulating the ways in which college culture promotes participation in risk behaviors as developmentally appropriate experimentation.
Russell, C., Clapp, J., DeJong, W. "Done 4: Analysis of a Failed Social Norms Marketing Campaign." Health Communication, 2005, 17 (1)57-65.
Abstract: College students commonly believe their peers engage in higher levels of dangerous drinking than is actually the case. Social norms marketing campaigns attempt to correct these misperceptions, decrease the perceived normative pressure to drink, and thereby drive down high-risk alcohol consumption. In this case study, we critically examined "Done 4," an unsuccessful social norms marketing campaign conducted as part of a comprehensive prevention trial at a large urban university. As part of this analysis, undergraduate marketing students were shown the principal advertisement used in the campaign and asked to complete an advertising analysis questionnaire. The results of this case study suggest that the advertisement was poorly constructed, which decreased its effectiveness and led to confusion about the social norms message. We discuss implications of these findings for future prevention campaigns and new research.
Rice, R., and Hancock, L. "The Mall Intercept: A Social Norms Marketing Research Tool." The Report on Social Norms, 2005, 4(7):4-7.
(Note: A PDF copy of this article is available by clicking on the title.)
Excerpt: "The mall intercept is an indispensable tool for conducting timely and effective process or monitoring research. Because it is relatively economical and can be easily adapted to investigate both ongoing and emergent questions, the mall intercept can generate a wealth of both qualitative and quantitative data about various aspects of project implementation. In addition, a wide variety of individuals can be trained to conduct intercepts, thus providing an important educational opportunity for peer educators, students in public and community health, marketing students, etc. In short, social norms projects have abundant reasons to use the mall intercept. By doing so, they can effectively bolster the comprehension, reach, and recall of their normative messages."
Shari Kessel Schneider, Laura Gomberg Towvim, William DeJong
"The Social Norms Marketing Research Project: Results for Study 1." The Report on Social Norms, Volume 4(5): February 2005
This study found "slight decreases or modest increases in alcohol consumption at the schools randomly assigned to conduct a social norms marketing campaign, compared to fairly substantial increases at the control group schools. In sum, the social norms marketing campaigns conducted by the experimental schools appear to have provided a protective effect against the increases in alcohol consumption shown by the control group."
Lederman. L. and Stewart, L., Changing The Culture Of College Drinking: A Socially Situated Health Communication Campaign. Hampton Press, 2005.
Included in this book are chapters by Alan Berkowitz (reviewing the history of social norms Theory), Patricia Fabiano (describing the work done at
WWU with a small group approach incorporating social norms) and by Linda
Jeffrey and Pam Negro of Rowan University (summarizing their work with a state-wide social norms project). The book targets a new audience for social norms work: the discipline of communication, where many who study persuasion
theory and health communication may now be introduced to the Socially
Situated Experiential Learning approach used by Lederman and Stewart at Rutgers University: an approach that relies upon and acknowledges the role of social norms and misperceptions.
Nesdale, D., Maass, A., Durkin, K., and Griffiths, J. "Group norms, threat, and children's racial prejudice." Child Development, May/June 2005, 76(3):652-663.
To assess predictions from social identity development theory (SIDT; Nesdale, 2004) concerning children's ethnic/racial prejudice, 197 Anglo-Australian children ages 7 or 9 years participated in a minimal group study as a member of a team that had a norm of inclusion or exclusion. The team was threatened or not threatened by an out-group that was of the same or different race. Consistent with SIDT, prejudice was greater when the ingroup had a norm of exclusion and there was threat from the out-group. Norms and threat also interacted with participant age to influence ethnic attitudes, although prejudice was greatest when the in-group had an exclusion norm and there was out-group threat. The implications of the findings for SIDT are discussed.
Rutland, A., Cameron, L., Milne, A., and McGeorge, P. "Social norms and self-presentation: Children's implicit and explicit intergroup attitudes." Child Development, March/April 2005, 76(2):451-466.
Two studies examined whether social norms and children's concern for self-presentation affect their intergroup attitudes. Study 1 examined racial intergroup attitudes and normative beliefs among children aged 6 to 16 years (n5155). Accountability (i.e., public self-focus) was experimentally manipulated, and intergroup attitudes were assessed using explicit and implicit measures. Study 2 (n5134) replicated Study 1, focusing on national intergroup attitudes. Both studies showed that children below 10 years old were externally motivated to inhibit their in-group bias under high public self-focus. Older children were internally motivated to suppress their bias as they showed implicit but not explicit bias. Study 1, in contrast to Study 2, showed that children with low norm internalization suppressed their out-group prejudice under high public self-focus.
Sanchez, D.T., Crocker, J., Boike, K.R.
"Doing gender in the bedroom: Investing in gender norms and the sexual experience." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2005, 31(10):1445-1455.
People often believe that they must be consistent with gender norms to obtain others' approval. The authors believe people who invest in gender norms tend to base self-esteem on others' approval, which undermines their sexual autonomy and ultimately diminishes their sexual satisfaction in intimate relationships. A survey of 309 sexually active college students examined whether placing importance on conforming to gender norms undermines sexual relationships because of its link to basing self-worth on others' approval and decreased sexual autonomy. Using structural equation modeling, the authors found that valuing gender conformity (but not avoiding gender deviance) negatively affects sexual pleasure for both men and women through increased contingency on others' approval and restricted sexual autonomy. The model fit the data for both men and women.
Brener N.D, Eaton DK, Lowry R, McManus T.
"The association between weight perception and BMI among high school students."Obesity Research, 2004,12(11):1866-1874.
Abstract: "To assess the association between weight perception and BMI among a large, diverse sample of adolescents. This study used both measured and self-reported height and weight to calculate BMI. A convenience sample of students (n = 2032) in grades 9 through 12 completed a questionnaire assessing demographic characteristics, self-reported height and weight, and body weight perception. These students were then weighed and had their height measured using a standard protocol. Results: Using BMI calculated from measured height and weight, 1.5% of students were classified as underweight or at risk for underweight, 51.2% of students were normal weight, and 47.4% were overweight or at risk for overweight. Among this same sample of students, however, 34.8% perceived themselves as underweight, 42.9% perceived themselves as about the right weight, and 22.3% perceived themselves as overweight. Even when using BMI calculated from self-reported height and weight, >20% of students who were overweight or at risk for overweight perceived themselves as underweight. Discussion: Because perception of overweight is a key determinant of adolescent nutritional habits and weight management, many students who are overweight or at risk for overweight but who do not perceive themselves as such are unlikely to engage in weight control practices. Increasing awareness of medical definitions of overweight might improve accuracy of weight perceptions and lead to healthier eating and increased physical activity."
Eaton, D.K., Lowry, R., Brener, N.D., Grunbaum, J., Kann, L. "Passive versus active parental permission in school-based research: does the type of permission affect prevalence estimates of risk behaviors?" Evaluation Review, 2004, 28(6):564-577.
Abstract: "This study investigates whether the type of parental permission affects prevalence estimates for risk behaviors from the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Participants were 13,195 students from 143 schools, of which 65% used passive permission and 35% active permission. Student participation rates were 86.7% in passive permission schools and 77.3% in active permission schools. For 24 of 26 behaviors tested, no significant differences were seen in the prevalence of risk behavior by type of parental permission. As long as high response rates are obtained, type of parental permission does not affect prevalence estimates for risk behaviors that are based on self-report."
Kneeshaw, K., Vaske, J.J., Bright, A.D., Absher, J.D. "Acceptability norms toward fire management in three national forests." Environment and Behavior, 2004, 36(4):592-612.
Excerpt: "Overall, this study has demonstrated how the normative approach can be
used to identify forest users' acceptance of fire management actions across a
variety of fire scenarios and three national forests. Extending this research to
other stakeholder groups, national forests, and fire scenario factors would create
amore holistic prediction of the acceptability of fire management actions. Such
an expansion would increase managers'confidence in choosing the most acceptable
management action and potentially help reduce conflict associated with fire
management policies. Understanding normative beliefs about acceptable management
actions, as well as the factors influencing these normative beliefs, facilitates
more effective communication and education about fire management."
Larimer, M., Turner, A., Mallett, K., and Geisner, I. "Predicting drinking behavior and alcohol-related problems among fraternity and sorority members: Examining the role of descriptive and injunctive norms." Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2004, 18(3):203-212.
The authors examined the relation between Greek students' perceptions of alcohol consumption in their pledge classes (descriptive norms) and acceptability of drinking (injunctive norms) and the ability of these normative influences to predict drinking behavior, alcohol-related negative consequences; and symptoms of alcohol dependence concurrently and prospectively over I year. Participants were 279 men and 303 women recruited from incoming pledge classes of 12 fraternities and 6 sororities, who completed measures of descriptive and injunctive norms, alcohol use, and consequences. Results revealed that descriptive norms significantly predicted concurrent drinking. After controlling for baseline drinking, injunctive norms significantly predicted drinking 1 year later and predicted alcohol-related consequences and dependency symptoms at baseline and follow-up. The potential to incorporate injunctive norms into preventive interventions is discussed.
Dalgety, J., Coll, R. K. "The influence of normative beliefs on students' enrolment choices." Research in Science & Technological Education, 2004, 22(1):59-80.
Peers, family, mentors and the media may influence students' attitudes towards chemistry and their intention to enrol in tertiary chemistry course. In this paper we report on an investigation of the perceptions students hold about their associates' attitudes toward chemistry and chemists. Data were gathered from 37 tertiary chemistry students, for whom chemistry had differing roles in their degree. The data suggest that although many of the students' associates subscribe to stereotypical images of chemistry and chemists, students choices of emrolment are predominantly based on their own previous experiences.
Albarracin, D., Kumkale, G.T., Johnson, B.T. "Influences of social power and normative support on condom use decisions: A research synthesis." AIDS Care, 2004, 16(6):700-723.
Abstract: A meta-analysis of 58 studies involving 30,270 participants examined how study population and methodological characteristics influence the associations among norms, control perceptions, attitudes, intentions and behavior in the area of condom use. Findings indicated that control perceptions generally correlated more strongly among members of societal groups that lack power, including female, younger individuals, ethic minorities and people with lower educational levels. Furthermore, norms generally had stronger influences among younger individuals and among people who have greater access to informational social support, including males, ethnic majorities and people with higher levels of education. These findings are discussed in the context of HIV prevention.
Valde, K.S., Fitch, K.L. "Desire and Sacrifice: Seeking Compliance in Designated Driver Talk." Western Journal of Communication, 2004, 68(2):121-150.
Abstract: Media Campaigns introduced the term designated driver to United States discourse in an effort to persuade people not to drink and drive. This study explores implementation of the media campaign's objective in social interactions. We describe cultural premises related to drinking and driving, facework issues in designated driver talk, and relational resources relevant to designating a driver. Although people routinely attempt to designate a driver, interpretations of the term often diverge from the goal of eliminating drunk driving. The findings emphasize that designated driver talk is constructed through interaction sequences, and that problematic issues around face threats and cultural assumptions about drinking and driving should be addressed.
Lewis, M.A., and Neighbors, C. "Gender-Specific Misperceptions of College Student Drinking Norms." Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2004, Vol. 18, No. 4, 334-339.
This study evaluated perceptions of same-sex and opposite-sex gender-specific versus gender-nonspecific drinking norms among college students (115 men, 111 women). This research is consistent with previous findings that college students overestimate the quantity and frequency of drinking among their gender-nonspecific peers and demonstrates that both men and women overestimate the quantity and frequency of the drinking of their same-sex peers. The findings suggest that perceived same-sex norms are more strongly associated with problematic drinking than are gender-nonspecific norms and that perceived same-sex drinking norms are stronger predictors of alcohol consumption for women than for men. Results suggest that interventions incorporating normative feedback should be framed differently for women than for men.
Lynch, J.F., Mowrey, R.J., Nesbitt, G.M., and O'Neill, D.F."Risky Business: Misperceived Norms of Sexual Behavior Among College Students." NASPA Journa;, 2004 (Fall), 42(1):21-35.
Abstract: Do students accurately perceive the sexual behavior of their peers? The results of this study indicate a dramatic difference between students' self-reported sexual behavior and their perceptions of peer sexual behavior. Specifically, students tend to overestimate the potentially risky sexual activity of their peers. The data also challenge popular myths regarding the sexual behavior of Greek and athlete populations. As with alcohol prevention efforts, the disparity between behavior and perception raises the question of whether social marketing strategies may be effective in lowering the incidence of unsafe sexual behaviors among college students.
Martens, M.P., Taylor, K.K., Damann, K.M., Page, L.C., Mowry, E.S., and Cimini, M.D. "Protective Behavioral Strategies When Drinking Alcohol and Their Relationship to Negative Alcohol-Related Consequences in College Students." Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2004, Vol. 18, No. 4, 390-393
Prior research has examined a number of individual characteristics (e.g., gender, family connectedness) that protect individuals from engaging in heavy drinking and experiencing negative alcohol-related consequences, but less is known about specific behavioral strategies that might also serve as protective factors. In this study, 556 undergraduate students completed the National College Health Assessment and answered questions regarding the use of specific protective behavioral strategies (PBS), alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related consequences. Results indicated that less frequent use of PBS was related to a greater likelihood of experiencing negative alcohol-related consequences, even after accounting for the effects of gender and alcohol consumption. These results suggest that PBS may be an important component of both prevention and treatment programs for college students.
Turner, J.C., Bauerle, J. and Shu, J.
"Estimated Blood Alcohol Concentration Correlation with Self-Reported Negative Consequences among College Students Using Alcohol.
" Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Vol 65, Number 6, November 2004.
The estimated blood alcohol concentration (eBAC) has the potential for being a useful index of alcohol induced intoxication and impairment. This study investigates the association of the eBAC with negative consequences associated with alcohol use. Self-reported negative consequences were assessed using a stratified random sampling of 4708 undergraduate students at a public university with a total enrollment of 12,550. Survey questions permitted the calculation. Levels of eBAC were correlated with demographic characteristics and self-reported negative consequences. The effectiveness of the eBAC in predicting negative consequences was compared to drinks per week and consuming at or above the heavy episodic drinking level by calculating receiver operator characteristic values (ROC) and incremental validity by performing multiple logistic regressions. The results of reporting a higher level of eBAC were significantly elevated for males, underage classmen, and members of Greek organizations. The odds of reporting a negative consequence were highly associated with each incremental increase in the eBAC level. The performance of the eBAC was not significantly different than drinks per week and the heavy episodic drinking index in correlating with negative consequences. Conclusion: As an index of alcohol consumption, the level of "typical eBAC is correlated with seventeen self-reported social and health consequences. There are potential advantages of using the eBAC index in assessing alcohol use among college drinkers.
Scholly, K., Katz, A.R., Gascoigne, J., and Holck, P.S.,
Using Social Norms Theory to Explain Perceptions and Sexual Health Behaviors of Undergraduate College Students: An Exploratory Study.
" Journal of American College Health, Vol. 53, No. 4, 2004
The authors and associates conducted a social norms-based intervention targeting high-risk sexual behaviors among undergraduate students at 4 college campuses. Social norms theory predicts that widely held misperceptions may encourage risky behavior in a misguided attempt to conform to perceived norms and that information correcting these misperceptions will lead to a decrease in such behaviors. Students overestimated their peers' levels of sexual activity, number of partners, incidence of sexually transmitted infections, and rates of unintended pregnancies, but underestimated rates of condom use. Rates of HIV test taking, however, were accurately estimated. Although some components of sexual risk behaviors lend themselves well to social norms-based interventions, others, specifically inconsistent condom use and avoiding HIV tests, do not. Although no changes in reported beliefs or practices were apparent at the end of the 9-month intervention period, longer and modified interventions may be needed to make a fair assessment of the efficacy of this approach.
Douglas J.Beirness, Robert D. Foss, and Muriel Vogel-Sprott,
"Drinking on Campus: Self-Reports and Breath Tests
." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 65: 600-604, 2004.
The present survey examines the degree to which [the] 2-week 5+/4+ drink criterion characterizes a student's pattern of alcohol use, and whether the 5+/4+ drink criterion for a drinking occasion is a valid indicator of high blood alcohol concentration (BAC). METHOD: Students (N=856, 70% male) were interviewed as the returned home between 10PM and 3AM. Students reported their drinking of the past 2 weeks and of the night they were interviewed, then provided breath samples to determine their BAC. RESULTS: Among the students in the sample classified as "heavy" drinkers on the basis of self-reports, 49% had zero BAC on the night they were interviewed. Those who reported consuming 5+/4+ drinks the evening of the interview had a mean BAC <0.05%. Very high BACs (i.e., at or above 0.15%) were rare (1.3%). CONCLUSIONS: Self-reports of consuming 5+/4+ drinks on at least one occasion during the previous 2 weeks did not reliably identify a pattern of heavy drinking. Moreover, reports of 5+/4+ drinks on an occasion were not necessarily associated with high BACs.
[Note: Extensive information about the use of data from another BAC study in an effective social norms campaign conducted at the University of North Carolina is available on the web site of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
This publication by Robert Foss, L. Marchetti, and K. Holladay is entitled: "Development and Evaluation of a Comprehensive Program to Reduce Drinking and Impaired Driving Among College Students: Final Report."]
Eric N. Alexander and Anne M. Bowen
"Excessive Drinking in College: Behavioral Outcome, Not Binge, As a Basis for Prevention.
" Addictive Behaviors, 29: 1199-1205, 2004.
"Perhaps the definition of excessive use or binge drinking hinders prevention efforts. The term binge may encapsulate such a broad array of drinking behaviors and outcomes that students fail to identify specific behaviors to change.Emphasizing negative outcomes may have minimal utility because they are frequently delayed. Positive experiences are more immediate and may provide an avenue of prevention programming. Interventions that focus on increased awareness of positive outcomes may improve expectations for light drinking.Emphasizing that people experience more fun when they increase the time spent in a social situation rather than increase the amount of alcohol consumed, educators can provide alternative reasons for students as to why they experience positive outcomes, rather than focusing only on drinking behaviors."
Dennis L. Thombs, S. Dotterer, R. Scott Olds, et al.
"A Close Look at Why One Social Norms Campaign Did Not Reduce Student Drinking. "
Journal of American College Health, 53(2): 61-68, 2004.
The authors examined 3 possible explanations for the failure of a social norms campaign at a large public university.At follow-up, 66.5% of the students were aware of the campaign, yet the survey revealed no reduction in perceived drinking norms or alcohol use in this group. An analysis of the postcampaign sample revealed that (1) a majority of the students did not find the statistics in the campaign messages credible, (2) higher levels of alcohol use predicted lower levels of perceived campaign credibility, and (3) only 38.5% of the students understood the campaign's intended purpose.
C., Larimer, M.E., Lewis, M.A. "Targeting Misperceptions
of Descriptive Drinking Norms: Efficacy of a Computer-Delivered Personalized
Normative Feedback Intervention." Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology, 2004, Vol. 72, No. 3, 434-447
The authors evaluated the efficacy of a computer-delivered personalized
normative feedback intervention in reducing alcohol consumption among
heavy-drinking college students. Participants included 252 students
who were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group following
a baseline assessment.
Immediately after completing measures of reasons for drinking, perceived
norms, and drinking behavior, participants in the intervention condition
were provided with computerized information detailing their own drinking
behavior, their perceptions of typical student drinking, and actual
typical student drinking. Results indicated that normative feedback
was effective in changing perceived norms and alcohol consumption
at 3- and 6-month follow-up assessments. In addition, the intervention
was somewhat more effective at 3-month follow-up among participants
who drank more for social reasons.
Griffin, K.W., Botvin, G.J., Nichols, T.R., and Scheier, L.M. "Low perceived chances for success in life and binge drinking among inner-city minority youth." Journal of Adolescent Health, 2004, 34:501-507.
Purpose: To examine the relationship between low perceived chances for success in life and binge drinking in a sample of economically disadvantaged, predominantly minority, urban adolescents. Methods: A sample of predominantly black and Hispanic students (N=774) from 13 inner city schools completed confidential questionnaires in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. Eight items measured students' estimation of achieving certain adaptive life goals. Students who reported that they typically drink five or more drinks per drinking occasion were identified as binge drinkers. Results: Chi-square proportional analyses indicated that rates of binge drinking increased and perceived life chances decreased for both boys and girls from the 7th to the 9th grade. A cross-lagged path analytic model revealed that higher perceived life chances in the 7th grade predicted less binge drinking in the 8th grade, wheras binge drinking in the 8th grade predicted lower perceived life chances in the 9th grade, controlling for change over time in both variables. Conclusions: Low perceived chances of success in life appear to play a roll in the initiation and escalation of binge drinking during early adolescence, with reciprocal relationship between the two factors developing over time.
Christensen, P. N., Rothgerber, H., Wood, W., and Matz, D.C. "Social norms and identity relevance: A Motivational Approach to Normative Behavior."Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2004, 30(10):1295-1309.
Two studies demonstrated that greater identification with a
group was associated with more positive emotions for members
who conformed with versus violated the group's norms. These
effects were found with injunctive norms, which specify what
members should do or what they ideally would do, but emerged
less consistently with descriptive norms, which specify what
members typically do. Descriptive norms affected emotional
responses when they acquired identity-relevance by differentiating
an important ingroup from a rival outgroup. For these
descriptive norms, much like injunctive norms, greater identification
yielded more positive emotions following conformity than
violation. The authors suggest that positive emotions and selfevaluations
underlie conformity with the norms of self-defining
Randolph, W., Viswanath, K. "Lessons learned from public health mass media campaigns: marketing health in a crowded media world." Annual Review of Public Health, 2004, 25:419-37.
Abstract: "Every year, new public health mass media campaigns are launched attempting to change health behavior and improve health outcomes. These campaigns enter a crowded media environment filled with messages from competing sources. Public health practitioners have to capture not only the attention of the public amid such competition, but also motivate them to change health behaviors that are often entrenched or to initiate habits that may be new or difficult. In what ways are public health mass media campaigns now attempting to succeed in a world crowded with media messages from a myriad of sources? What are the conditions that are necessary for a media campaign to successfully alter health behaviors and alter outcomes in the long term? To what extent can the successes and failures of previous campaigns be useful in teaching important lessons to those planning campaigns in the future? In this chapter we attempt to answer these questions, drawing from recent literature on public health mass media campaigns."
Mattern, J. and Neighbors, C. "Social norms
campaigns: examining the relationship between changes in perceived
norms and changes in drink levels." Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 65:489-493, 2004.
This study examines changes in drinking as a function of changes in
perceived drinking norms following a social norms marketing campaign
to correct normative misperceptions of college student drinking among
residence hall students. Results revealed reduced perceptions of typical
student drinking frequency and quantity. Among non-abstainers, drinking
quantity went down from pre to post intervention. Further examination
revealed that reductions in drinking were only evident among students
whose perceived norms were reduced.
Fabiano, P., Perkins, H.W., Berkowitz, A., Linkenbach, J.
and Stark, C. "Engaging men as social justice allies
in ending violence against women: evidence for a social norms approach."
Journal of American College Health, 2004, Vol. 52 No. 3, pp. 105-112.
Data from this study suggest that men underestimate the importance
that most men and women place on consent and the willingness of most
men to intervene against sexual violence. In addition, men's personal
adherence to only consensual activity and their willingness to act
as women's allies are strongly influenced by their perceptions of
other men's and women's norms. These findings support the proposition
that accurate normative data, which counters he misperception of rape-supportive
environments, can be a critical part of campus efforts to prevent
sexual violence against women.
Berkowitz, A. D. The Social Norms Approach: Theory,
Research, and Annotated Bibliography (August 2004).
Provides a brief overview of research in support of social norms theory,
reviews successful social norms interventions at all three levels
of prevention (universal, selective and indicated), summarizes different
applications of the approach, and makes recommendations for future
development of the field. Included is an annotated bibliography of
important publications and articles on the social norms approach.
Available online at: http://www.alanberkowitz.com/articles/social_norms.pdf
Latkin, C.A., Forman, V., Knowlton, A., Sherman, S. "Norms, social networks, and HIV-related risk behaviors among urban disadvantaged drug users." Social Science and Medicine, 2003,56(3):465-476.
Abstract: "Altering norms may be an important approach to introducing and sustaining health protective behavior change. This study sought to examine the relationship between condom use, condom norms, and social network characteristics among a sample of economically impoverished individuals at risk for acquiring and transmitting HIV. Participants were 1051 individuals from a drug-using community in the USA. Eighty percent were current drug users; 17% were HIV seropositive. Reported condom use was strongly associated with peer norms about condom use (friends talking about condoms, encouraging condom use, and using condoms). Women were less likely than men to report that their friends used condoms. Injection drug use was negatively associated with peer norms about condom use, while church attendance and network characteristics were positively associated with condom-promoting norms. The size of the health advice and the financial support networks was most positively related to condom norms. Network methodology may aid in the identification of specific ties that promote condom use norms in a population. The findings of this study may have implications for norm change interventions among disadvantaged communities at high risk for HIV/AIDS.
Brener, N.D., Billy, J.O., Grady, W.R. "Assessment of factors affecting the validity of self-reported health-risk behavior among adolescents: evidence from the scientific literature." Journal of Adolescent Health, 2003, 33:436-457.
Abstract: " We reviewed the existing empirical literature to assess cognitive and situational factors that may affect the validity of adolescents' self-reports of alcohol and other drug use, tobacco use, behaviors related to unintentional injuries and violence, dietary behaviors, physical activity, and sexual behavior. Specifically, we searched for peer-reviewed journal articles published in 1980 or later that examined the factors affecting self-report of the six categories of behavior listed above. We also search for studies describing objective measures for each behavior. Self-reports of each of six types of health-risk behaviors are affected by both cognitive and situational factors.These factors, however, do not threaten the validity of each type of behavior equally. The importance of assessing health-risk behaviors as part of research activities involving adolescents necessitates the use of self-report measures. Researchers should familiarize themselves with the threats to validity inherent in this type of assessment and design research that minimizes these threats as much as possible."
Peters, R.J., Kelder, S.H., Markham, C.M., Yacoubian, G.S., Peters, L.A., Ellis, A. "Beliefs and social norms about codeine and promethazine hydrochloride cough syrup (CPHCS) onset and perceived addiction among urban Houstonian adolescents: An addiction trend in the city of lean." Journal of Drug Education, 2003, 33(4): 415-425.
Abstract: In the current study, we used a qualitative approach to investigate relevant beliefs and norms associated with codeine and promethazine hydrochloride cough syrup (CPHCS) consumption, initiation, and perceived addiction among 48 alternative school students who identified themselves as current CPHCS users. In general, both boys and girls believed the CPHCS addiction started during an individual's initial consumption. A majority of both groups reported that their second CPHCS event was initiated during the same or next day after their first event. Our findings suggest that friends and an innovative form of hip-hop music called "screw" are strong reinforcers of CPHCS use.
H. Wesley Perkins, EditorThe Social Norms Approach to Preventing School and College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook for Educators, Counselors, and Clinicians. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
An essential resource book of evidence supporting the social norms strategy and a user-friendly exposition of how model interventions have been conducted. Contents include numerous case studies of campus experiments to reduce alcohol abuse, expanding social norms to other campus applications (such as tobacco use), and using the social norms approach with adolescents and young adults in community settings. Information about this volume is available on the Jossey-Bass web site:
The contents of this page include a description of this 336-page volume, the table of contents, an extended excerpt from the book available in PDF format, and ordering information.
Kypros K. and Langely, J.D. Perceived social norms
and their relation to university student drinking," Journal of
Studies on Alcohol/November 2003, pp. 829-834.
A 2002 study of a randomly selected representative sample of 1,564
New Zealand university students found strong evidence of norm misperceptions,
and that perceived norms were strongly related to individual drinking
Aminzadeh, F., Edwards, N.
"Factors associated with cane use among community dwelling older adults." Public Health Nursing, November/December 2000, 17(6):474-483.
Abstract: Guided by the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), this study examined factors associated with cane use among community dwelling older adults. Data were collected in a cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of 106 community residing older adults in Ottawa, Canada. Using stepwise discriminant analysis, subjective norms, attitudes, and age surfaced as the key variables associated with cane use in this sample. The discriminant function accounted for 67% of the variance in cane use and correctly classified 91% of cases. The findings provide evidence for the utility of the TPB in its application to understanding cane use behaviors of older persons and have important implications for the design of theory-based fall prevention interventions to enhance the acceptance and effective use of mobility aids.
Mandell, W; Kim J; Latkin C; Suh, T "Do actions speak louder than words: Perceived peer influence on needle-sharing and cleaning in a sample of injection drug users."AIDS Education and Prevention. 1999, 11(2):122-131.
Abstract: Past research (Dielman, Burchart, Shope, and Miller, 1980) has found peer influence, perceived peer norms and perceived peer behavior as the strongest predictors of drug use in adolescent and young adult populations. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether verbal persuasion (peer norms) and/or observation of peer behavior (modeling) were significantly associated with the injection practices of unclean needle sharing and needle cleaning of 642 high-risk for HIV infection active injection drug users in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1991 and 1992. Using regression analyses to examine interview reports of infection practices, it was determined that subjects who reported observing more peer protective HIV-related behavior were also more likely to report lower frequencies of HIV risk behavior (unclean needle sharing) and increased frequencies of HIV protective behavior (always cleaning needles). Reports of "encouragement by peers to engage in cleaning needles" was paradoxically related to increased risk of sharing clean needles. In conclusion, peer behavior rather than verbal persuasion appears to influence injection practices.