Social Norms National Research & Resources
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  Press Releases & Opinion Pieces (2003)

Social Norms is Effective: Wechsler Study Flawed
A response issued by Michael Haines.

July 24, 2003
HWS Press Release
H. Wesley Perkins Notes Serious Flaws in Recent Harvard Study
Wesley Perkins, developer of the social norms approach, defends its effectiveness and blasts the Harvard study.

July 24, 2003
HWS Press Release
Perkins' Stance on Social Norms Receives Much Media Coverage
"A new report has been released by the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study saying that attempts to curb binge drinking on campuses through social norms programming have failed. Henry Wechsler, the director of the Harvard study, said he surveyed drinking patterns on 98 campuses, 37 of which have used social norms programs for one year, and found no improvement in lessening student drinking.
Perkins disputes the findings. "Wechsler ignores other research that shows a reduction of high-risk drinking on campuses that use campaigns to dispel misperceptions about drinking, said Perkins in the Hartford Courant story "Study Disputes Drinking Theory" (July 24)."

A Response to "A National Evaluation of Social Norms Marketing Interventions"
A critique issued by Alan Berkowitz, Ph.D.

Harvard Study of Social Norms Deserves "F" Grade for Flawed Research Design
An opinion piece issued by H. Wesley Perkins and Jeffrey Linkenbach

September 11, 2003
The Exponent
The Campus Newspaper of Montana State University
Oops! Papers Retract MOST of Us Story
By Jeff Linkenbach
"Contrary to news reports, Montana'a MOST of Us campaigns were never part of an evaluation conducted by a Harvard University Researcher. The Associated Press has publicly retracted the misinformation printed in recent headlines ..."

August 29, 2003
The Daily Illini
The Campus Newspaper of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana
Label Is Nothing to Celebrate
By Michael P. Haines
An op-ed on the harmfulness of so-called Party School designations, as viewed from a social norms perspective.

"The Princeton Review, one of the major resources for college-bound students and their parents, recently issued its "Top Party School" designations. While much of the information provided by the Princeton Review is useful, the designation of which schools are best for partying is not, since it undermines the work done over the years to address alcohol abuse and injures the reputations of the colleges, students and the surrounding communities. How? By promoting a powerful perception that alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, substance abuse and excessive behavior are the norm among the student body. If students think this constitutes normal behavior, they may feel pressure to emulate it because everybody's doing it. However, that perception is wrong..."

August 25, 2003
The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)
The Social Norms Approach Could Reverse UW's Party School Status
By Michael P. Haines
An op-ed on UW-Madison's recent designation as one of the top party school in the country.

"Research has proven that college students drink far less than the public, campus administrators and even their fellow students perceive. In fact, nearly two-thirds of college students drink moderately, infrequently or not at all. Is the UW-Madison an exception? Probably not, but no one believes it, including the students..."

February 20, 2003
HWS Press Release
Professor Perkins' New Book on Social Norms Receives Praise

"Hobart and William Smith Professor of Sociology H. Wesley Perkins developed the social norms approach to preventing substance abuse more than a decade ago, and continues to refine and modify this model for use by educators and counselors across the nation. With David Craig, professor of chemistry at the Colleges, Perkins co-directs the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Alcohol and Other Drug Education Project and the two are frequent guests at schools and universities across the country that want to know more about this successful model of abuse prevention..."