by Maggie Helseth
Social norming is a concept that has historically been used to prevent and reduce alcohol and drug use among high school students. Here’s how it works:
As a general rule, middle school and high school students want to fit in with their fellow students. For many, “fitting in” means doing what they think most of their peers are doing. For example, if a student thinks that most of her classmates regularly drink alcohol, she will be more likely to drink.
Time and again, studies among high school students suggest that the majority of high schoolers do not, in fact, regularly drink alcohol. However, the majority of high schoolers think that most of their peers do regularly drink alcohol.
A social norming approach to reducing alcohol consumption would, thus, involve educating the student body on the actual norms – in this case, that most students do not regularly drink alcohol. One would expect that, once students were educated on the actual norms, the rate of alcohol consumption among students would decline, as, again, students generally want to adhere to the norm.
The concept of social norming is not only used to reduce alcohol consumption. It can, indeed, be applied to reduce a number of negative behaviors among students, and, really, people of all ages. Once people learn that the norm is to not engage in a given negative behavior, the rate of engagement in that behavior will likely decline.Tweet