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    Social Norms Marketing

Social Norms Marketing is a scientific approach of gathering normative data on students' perceptions versus their actual behavior and using marketing techniques to report this norm data back to students. It is theorized, and successfully proven, that students' behaviors are based on false perceptions of the norm. When given the true norm, the students' behavior changes to meet that true norm.

When given a choice between "Normal" and "Healthy" students often chose normal. In essence, they are influenced more by what they perceive as normal as opposed to what they perceive as healthy. The issue is that students are often misled by their perceptions of normal. They may perceive that 9 out of 10 students drink excessively when they party but the opposite is true. In reality nearly less than 4 out of 10 students will drink to excess when they party. Meaning nearly 7 out of 10 students are making responsible choices when they party. Students find they are trying to live up to a false norm. "Everybody's doing it" is not the true norm.

Past approaches at universities have focused primarily on the negative consequences of choosing unhealthy lifestyles. Past programming was geared toward the few students who experienced these negative consequences (DUI, Car Crash, Medical Problems, etc.). Our goal was to scare them into health ("Health Terrorism"), after all, if they knew what could happen to them, they would not do it. There is however, little data confirming the effectiveness of this approach. In short, it hasn't worked.


Montana Social Norms Project
Higher Education Center
University of Arizona
University of Virginia


Auburn University Student Counseling Services
Contact: David Hodge, Counselor
Last updated: June 22, 2001