Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

Social Norms Campaigns: Examining the Relationship between Changes in Perceived Norms and Changes in Drinking Levels



Implementer: North Dakota State University

Program Overview: This university social norms program aimed to reduce student alcohol consumption by changing perceptions of peer alcohol consumption behaviors.

Program Design: This social norms program was a 5 week campaign in university residence halls. The campaign theme was "Stand Up and Be Counted", which was followed up with actual statistics of student alcohol consumption patterns. Messages were communicated via posters, a letter from the director of the residence hall, and promotional items.

Evaluation: Residence hall assistants (RAs) were used to administer pre and post test questionnaires to randomly selected students in their residence halls. The questionnaire included items to assess self-reported quantity and frequency of students' own alcohol consumption, as well as their perceptions of their peers' consumption.

Key findings: The evaluation of this social norms campaign examined how changes in perceived norms were associated with changes in consumption.

  • Survey results showed significant reductions in perceived norms of consumption and self-reported alcohol consumption
  • Additional analysis showed that changes in norms were associated with changes in consumption. Students who reported lower quantity norms also reported lower quantities of consumption for themselves. This was also true for frequency norms and consumption. 


1. Mattern, J. L. & Neighbors, C. (2004). Social norms campaigns: Examining the relationship between changes in perceived norms and changes in drinking levelsJournal of studies on alcohol65(4), 489-493.

Target Audience: University/young adults (18-21 years)
Issues: Underage Drinking
Setting: University
Approach: Social Norms
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