Norms are defined as those values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors shared by most people in a “group.” In other words, norms are what most people value, believe, and do. These can be shared by a particular family, club, community, or culture.
When we examine what our norms are, we are able to see a portrait of our society. It is essential to recognize that norms are often misperceived. Therefore, we must examine both actual norms and the perception of norms.
Perceived norms are what individuals think are the actual norms of a group of people. These can be dangerous because ideas influence behavior. For example, let’s say that many high school students at a particular school think that the majority of people their age drink. As a result, they see it as socially acceptable (a norm) to drink and are more likely to engage in that behavior because they perceive their peers are. They just want to belong.
However, in reality, most high school students at this school don’t drink. (This is a common misperception.)
Research shows that perceptions of norms can be strong predictors of behavior. We are social beings who look for cues in our environments about how to think, act, and belong. One way we search for these cues is by looking to the opinions and behaviors of others, as well as those expressed in the media.
Our Positive Social Norm Campaign aims to promote positive behavior and put an end to the misperception. Often, especially in these times, the truth is misconstrued and information is not complete. Our youth often get a bad reputation, but we see the facts, and we are committed to uplifting the true image. It is our strategy to highlight the positive so that we may influence attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions about underage drinking and drug use.
For more information on alcohol and drug use among minors, head to Beyond the Bell.