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

Jody L. Mattern, Clayton Neighbors

Objective: This study examined 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. The researchers expected students to reduce their estimates of typical student drinking following the social marketing campaign and that reductions in perceived norms would be associated with reduced drinking. Method: Perceived norms and self-reported frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption were assessed before and after a social norms marketing campaign among 474 residence hall students. Results: Paired samples t tests revealed reduced perceptions of typical student drinking frequency and quantity. In addition, among nonabstainers, drinking quantity went down from pre- to postintervention. Further examination revealed that reductions in drinking were evident only among students whose perceived norms were reduced. Conclusions: Results suggest that social norms marketing in residence halls can effectively reduce overestimates of typical student drinking and that reduction of perceived drinking norms are associated with reduced drinking. (J. Stud. Alcohol 65: 489-493, 2004)