Introduction to Social NormsIntroduction to Social Norms
Dr John McAlaney
University of Bradford
Social normsSocial norms
 How we behave as individuals is strongly influenced by
what we perceive to be the norm for our ...
ExampleExample
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
Never or
veryrarely
Less than
once a
month
Once a
month
2 - 3 days a
month
1 da...
Students in the UKStudents in the UK
• Survey of university and college students at 200 UK sites
Behaviour/ attitude Repor...
Causes of misperceptionCauses of misperception
 Pluralistic ignorance – Individuals believe themselves to
be different th...
Media coverageMedia coverage
• Third of Brits binge drink once a week… a
quarter of over 45s drink EVERY day’ – The Sun,
U...
Types of normTypes of norm
 Descriptive norms refer to beliefs about what other
people actually do – for example the perc...
Traditional approachesTraditional approaches
Traditional approachesTraditional approaches
Traditional approachesTraditional approaches
Social norms approachSocial norms approach
 Traditional forms of drug education often rely on
depicting extreme negative ...
Social norms approachSocial norms approach
Social norms approachSocial norms approach
Online and personalised messagesOnline and personalised messages
School activitiesSchool activities
Full report available at www.eudap.net
School activitiesSchool activities
Full report available at www.eudap.net
Social norms approachSocial norms approach
 There are several key differences between the social norms
approach and tradi...
Efficacy of the approachEfficacy of the approach
 Over a six year period of using the approach the
University of Virginia...
BehavioursBehaviours
 Social norms research has now been conducted on a
range of behaviours including –
 Smoking
 Drug ...
Hotel linen re-useHotel linen re-use
Goldstein et al (2007)Goldstein et al (2007)
 Cards were left in hotel rooms to enco...
Challenges and limitationsChallenges and limitations
 The social norms approach appears to be effective in
changing behav...
Reactions to the social normsReactions to the social norms
approachapproach
 ‘Idea of the Year’ – New York Times Magazine...
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Introduction to Social Norms - John McAlaney

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Introduction to Social Norms - John McAlaney

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Introduction to Social Norms - John McAlaney

  1. 1. Introduction to Social NormsIntroduction to Social Norms Dr John McAlaney University of Bradford
  2. 2. Social normsSocial norms  How we behave as individuals is strongly influenced by what we perceive to be the norm for our peers  This is especially true for young adults, where perceived norms can actually be the single strongest predictor of behaviours like alcohol and smoking  However, as demonstrated in the American college system and more recently in Europe, people very often misperceive how other people behave  Young adults in particular markedly overestimate substance use in their peers
  3. 3. ExampleExample 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 Never or veryrarely Less than once a month Once a month 2 - 3 days a month 1 daya week 2 days a week 3 - 4 days a week 5 - 6 days a week Everyday Frequency of drinking (days per month) Percentageofresponses Personal behavior Perceived norm in other students
  4. 4. Students in the UKStudents in the UK • Survey of university and college students at 200 UK sites Behaviour/ attitude Reported norm Perceived norm Frequency of alcohol consumption Number of drinks Twice a month 6 drinks Three to four days a week 8 drinks Smoking in last 30 days 30% 50 – 59% Leaving drinks unattended Leaving belongings unattended Riding with a drunk driver Never Never 14% Sometimes Sometimes 30 – 39% Cannabis use Approval of cannabis use Other drug use Approval of other drug use Never Disapprove Never Strongly disapprove Five to six times a year Neither Rarely Disapprove Number of sexual partners Unsafe sex 1 Never 3 Three to four times a year
  5. 5. Causes of misperceptionCauses of misperception  Pluralistic ignorance – Individuals believe themselves to be different than their peers, such as a light, infrequent drinker who observes their peers in a bar and assumes that they are regular drinkers  False consensus – Individuals believe their behaviour to be more common than is the case, such as a heavy drinker believing that most of their peers also drink heavily  Media – TV programmes and news reports may also reinforce misperceptions
  6. 6. Media coverageMedia coverage • Third of Brits binge drink once a week… a quarter of over 45s drink EVERY day’ – The Sun, UK • ‘Teens in grip of grog’ – The Herald Sun, Australia • ‘Danish teenagers drink three times more than Russians’ – Danish news website
  7. 7. Types of normTypes of norm  Descriptive norms refer to beliefs about what other people actually do – for example the perception of how many people in your peer group use drugs  Injunctive norms refer to beliefs about the attitudes that other people hold – for example the perception of whether people in your peer group condone drug use  To date research has focussed primarily on descriptive norms but projects which incorporate both types are becoming more common
  8. 8. Traditional approachesTraditional approaches
  9. 9. Traditional approachesTraditional approaches
  10. 10. Traditional approachesTraditional approaches
  11. 11. Social norms approachSocial norms approach  Traditional forms of drug education often rely on depicting extreme negative consequences of drug use  Whilst people may have a high recall rate for these types of messages there is little evidence that they are effective in changing behaviour  The social norms approach uses an alternative technique based on a very simple premise – if you can correct the misperceptions that people hold then alcohol and drug use will fall
  12. 12. Social norms approachSocial norms approach
  13. 13. Social norms approachSocial norms approach
  14. 14. Online and personalised messagesOnline and personalised messages
  15. 15. School activitiesSchool activities Full report available at www.eudap.net
  16. 16. School activitiesSchool activities Full report available at www.eudap.net
  17. 17. Social norms approachSocial norms approach  There are several key differences between the social norms approach and traditional behaviour change strategies:  It does not use scare tactics  It does not contain a moral undertone on how the population ‘should’ behave  It is a participatory process which includes members of the target population  Overall the approach operates by praising the healthy behaviour of the majority, rather than focussing on the negative behaviour of the minority
  18. 18. Efficacy of the approachEfficacy of the approach  Over a six year period of using the approach the University of Virginia have noted:  A 113% increase in students experiencing no alcohol- related negative consequences  A 57% decrease in experiencing multiple alcohol-related negative consequences  A 24% decrease in students reaching an eBAC of 0.08 when partying  Further evidence has also been provided by a recent systematic review by Moreira & Foxcroft (2009)
  19. 19. BehavioursBehaviours  Social norms research has now been conducted on a range of behaviours including –  Smoking  Drug use  Sexual health  Cancer screening  Bullying  Body image  Recycling  Driving  Energy conservation
  20. 20. Hotel linen re-useHotel linen re-use Goldstein et al (2007)Goldstein et al (2007)  Cards were left in hotel rooms to encourage linen re- use  Benefit to the hotel card – 16% reduction  Social responsibility card – 30% reduction  Environmental appeal card – 30% reduction  Social norms card – 44% reduction  The card with the social norms message was the most effective, despite the fact that hotel guests had never met the person who had stayed in the room previously or observed their towel use
  21. 21. Challenges and limitationsChallenges and limitations  The social norms approach appears to be effective in changing behaviour in the majority, but it is not intended as a substitute for clinical treatment in the heaviest users of drugs  It is based on a goal of reduction rather than eradication, which may not always be popular with stakeholders  The precise mechanisms through which misperceptions can be created and manipulated are still partly speculative, there is a need for more research
  22. 22. Reactions to the social normsReactions to the social norms approachapproach  ‘Idea of the Year’ – New York Times Magazine,2001  “…we need to use the strengths of the social norms approach, together with the strengths of other experiences, to overcome huge behavioural challenges” Robert Madelin, EU Director General for Health and Consumer Protection, 2009  “I am convinced that it is a relatively simple and cost- effective means of achieving behavioural change. Most importantly, it is positive rather than negative. It does not condemn, preach or use scare tactics, and it works!” Dr Bill Wilson, MSP, 2008

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