National Social Norms Institute

From Powerbase
Jump to: navigation, search
Alcohol badge.jpg This article is part of the Spinwatch public health oriented Alcohol Portal project.

The National Social Norms Institute was established in 2006 at the University of Virginia It is funded by Anheuser Busch, the producers of Budweiser beer. The move to Virginia followed six years of the National Social Norms Resource Center at Northern Illinois University. The move to Virginia has broadened the scope of the group which now includes: research, evaluation, and dissemination of information on the social norms approach. [1]

The social norms approach was listed in the New York Times in 2001 as one of the most influential ideas of the year. Originally, it developed from a study by H. Wesley Perkins, a professor of sociology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. He found that students consistently overestimated how much alcohol their fellow students drank. This increased the overall alcohol consumption of students, who would then try to conform to what they regarded as normal drinking behaviour.[2]

The approach is increasingly being applied in American universities, targeting college students in order to challenge behaviours ranging from excessive alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and risky sexual behaviour. The approach is basically a marketing strategy applied to social settings. The idea behind it, according to the US Department of Education's Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug and Violence Prevention:

Social norms marketing (SNM) differs from traditional prevention approaches that identify problem behaviors and educate target audiences about their harm. Instead of identifying problems, SNM messages contain statistics about the nonproblem behavior of a majority of people in order to encourage that behavior in others. SNM broadcasts nonjudgmental messages about the behaviors of a majority of a well-identified target audience—for campus campaigns, for example, the audience is students attending a college or university. And, instead of using presentations, articles, and brochures, SNM uses mass media such as ads, posters, and flyers. [3]


  1. National Social Norms Institute, Home Page accessed 3rd March 2009
  2. MARK FRAUENFELDER, New York Times, 9th December 2001 THE YEAR IN IDEAS: A TO Z.; Social-Norms Marketing accessed 9th March 2009
  3. US Department of Education's Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other drug and Violence Prevention Social Norms Marketing accessed 9th march 2009