Social norms theory-based interventions: Testing the feasibility of a purported mechanism of action

Brett T. Hagman, Patrick R. Clifford, Nora E. Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Social norms-based interventions targeting college student drinking behaviors have become increasingly popular. Such interventions purportedly modify student misperceptions of fellow student drinking behaviors, which leads to changes in individual drinking behavior. Despite claims of successful interventions, research demonstrating that social norms-based interventions modify student perceptions is lacking. Objective: The authors conducted a laboratory experiment examining the feasibility of this mechanism of action and aimed to determine the validity of the campus-specific drinking norms hypothesis. Participants and Methods: The authors randomly assigned 60 students to 1 of 3 research conditions: Alcohol 101 (national drinking norms), a didactic presentation of campus specific drinking norms, or a control condition. Results: Both intervention groups modified student misperceptions regarding peer alcohol use, and these changes were sustained 1 week later. Conclusions: Social norms-based interventions can contribute to more accurate drinking perceptions among college students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-298
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of American College Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Alcohol
  • College health
  • Perceptions
  • Social norms


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