Perkins, Craig and Social Norms Featured – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Perkins, Craig and Social Norms Featured

The Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera ran an article on the University of Colorado July 12, which profiled the school's increased efforts to reduce student drinking and educate incoming students at their orientation. The article quoted H. Wesley Perkins, professor of sociology, from an interview he gave that was posted on a State University of New York Web site.

“Students typically believe that their peers drink much more than they actually do,” said Perkins. “The importance of this general misperception is that it fuels problem behaviors as students try to live up to a distorted image of what their peers believe and do.”

Hobart and William Smith Colleges boasted a 30 percent reduction in
alcohol use between 1995 and 2000 from its social norms campaign.

Perkins and Professor of Chemistry David Craig were also featured in the NCAA News for June 21. Final results from a pilot program designed to encourage student-athletes to make responsible decisions about alcohol and tobacco use show that employing a social norms theory to encourage behavior can produce successful outcomes. The program, called Student-Athletes Taking Active Responsible Roles (STARR) was funded through the NCAA Division III Initiatives Task Force. Perkins and Craig conducted the study.

“We significantly reduced the perceptions of high-risk drinking, and we significantly reduced problem drinking rates. We also prompted significant reductions in tobacco use and other things,” said Perkins. “That's an important message because nationwide, other kinds of projects have not had much or any success in reducing the problems at all.