In a recent presentation at the Bradford Campus of the University of Pittsburgh, Professor of Sociology Wesley Perkins addressed a campus-wide forum for faculty and staff, discussing social norms and the role of data in positively changing student attitudes and behaviors around alcohol.
The Bradford Campus has been implementing a social norms initiative based on Perkins’ research. On the invitation of the university’s offices of academic affairs and student affairs, Perkins delivered a talk, “Confronting the ‘Reign of Error’: The Social Norms Approach to Preventing Problem Drinking and Promoting Health among Students.” Later that day, he addressed a student audience in a separate talk supported by the Student Government Association titled “Is Everybody Really Doing it? Using a Social Norms Approach to Successfully Reduce Problem Drinking among Students.”
Based on more than three decades of research with thousands of students at hundreds of colleges and universities, Perkins’ work investigates the widespread misperceptions of peer drinking norms that exist among students and the dramatic impact those misperceptions can have on personal problem drinking. In his talks, he discussed the causes of these misperceptions and the potential for program interventions to challenge them.
In addition to his teaching duties at HWS, Perkins is the co-director of the Colleges’ Alcohol Education Project, which has twice received a national award from the U.S. Department of Education as a Model Prevention Program in Higher Education. His other research interests and publications include studies of family roles and well-being among young adults and comparative studies of social values and religion in Great Britain and the United States. He is also conducting an extensive research project on forgiveness and health in the life course of young and middle-aged adults and a project on social norms and bullying in adolescence.
Perkins, who joined the HWS faculty in 1978, received a B.A. in sociology from Purdue University, a M.Div. degree from Yale University Divinity School and a M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. He has received the HWS faculty prize for outstanding scholarship and the faculty prize for outstanding service to the Colleges’ community.