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Social Norms Initiative at Siena College

Siena College students want to know what’s happening on campus. They want to know what students are doing. The Social Norms Campaign is designed to give students accurate feedback on the attitudes, behaviors and beliefs of their peers. Research across the county and over many years has shown that college students often misperceived how often and how much their peers drinking. College students (Siena students included) report believing that their peers drink more often and drink greater quantities than students actually report drinking. This misperception may influence student decision making and fuel high risk drinking for some students.

What are Social Norms?
Social Norms are beliefs about what is acceptable in a social context. Social norms are rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit. People often associate the most memorable behavior with the majority behavior and hence the rules about that is normative in that social context. 

A brief message from H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York:


Social Norms Campaign

Like many colleges, Siena College is doing research on student behavior and attitudes around alcohol. As a part of the social norms model, Siena is reporting these survey results back to students to show students an accurate picture of alcohol consumption on Siena’s campus. Students are often stunned to find how often they overestimate (misperceived) the frequency and quantity of drinking done by their fellow students. Survey results communicate what the majority of students actually think and do concerning alcohol consumption (or other behaviors). This reduces the gap between the misperceived norm and the actual norm regarding alcohol use. Reducing this misperception gap can reduce high risk drinking and its negative consequences.

Get the FAQs about Social Norm research

What Does the Social Norm Campaign Have to do with Drinking?

Because drinking is so commonly associated with college students, the Siena College Social Norms Campaign wanted to paint an accurate picture of what students are doing on campus.
Here are a few things we found :

  • Most students greatly overestimate the frequency and amount of drinking on their campus and college campuses in general.
  • Students’ misperception may conclude that high-risk drinking is the norm, leading them to increase frequency or quantity of consumption.
  • “That is what college students do” misperception causes students to believe they are more accepted by consuming larger amounts of alcohol.

The Social Norms Campaign is just one action Siena College has taken to approach high risk drinking on campus.

Where does Siena College get Information for the Social Norms Campaign?

Siena College gathers information using different assessment tools, such as:

  1. Student Health Survey
  2. CORE Drug and Alcohol Survey
  3. National Survey of Student Engagement
  4. Association of College and University Housing Officers Survey
  5. MyStudentbody

Policies for Alcohol and Drug Use on Campus

Siena College's policies regarding alcohol and drug use on campus are located in the Siena Life Student Handbook. These policies support Siena's commitment to providing a safe and healthy living and learning environment on campus.