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Is Everybody Really Doing It?

Using a Social Norms Approach to Successfully Reduce Youth Risk Behaviors

Effective prevention of substance abuse and related problems among youth and young adults requires coordinated efforts using science-based strategies. The Social Norms Approach has emerged as a science-based approach focusing on the influence of perceived peer norms and has provided notable success in many initiatives, including higher education, secondary schools, and community settings. Based on more than two decades of research with tens of thousands of middle school, high school, and college students, as well as studies of other young adults and parents in community settings, Dr. Perkins will describe the harmful misperceptions of peer norms that are so pervasive in schools and communities and how the perception of peer norms is the most important factor predicting risk behavior. He will then discuss the causes and consequences of peer misperceptions and the potential for program interventions to challenge these misperceptions.

Research clearly shows the importance of harnessing the positive power of peers through the promotion of accurate social norms. While putting the social norms approach into practice is not without its challenges, Dr. Perkins will provide an interactive afternoon with examples of various strategies to implement social norms interventions, discuss common mistakes, present important considerations in the assessment of interventions, and conclude by noting key elements of successful interventions employing this model.


H. Wesley Perkins, PH.D.
Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

H. WESLEY PERKINS received a B.A. in Sociology from Purdue University, an M.Div. degree from Yale University Divinity School, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University. He is a Professor of Sociology at Hobart & William Smith Colleges and Project Director of the Alcohol Education Project and the Youth, Health and Safety Project, initiatives providing research, educational resources, and strategies to reduce risk-related and problem behaviors among youth and young adults throughout the U.S. and internationally. This Project has received multiple national awards from the U.S. Department of Education as a Model Prevention Program. Dr. Perkins has published extensive research in professional journals on promoting health and well-being and numerous publications on the prevention of violence and substance misuse among youth. He developed the theory underlying the social norms approach to preventing risk behavior and edited a book on The Social Norms Approach to Preventing School and College Age Substance Abuse. Dr. Perkins has delivered over 500 guest lectures, keynote addresses, research presentations, and workshops for universities, secondary schools, and professional conferences and has consulted with hundreds of secondary schools, institutions of higher education, and community health agencies about social norms interventions throughout the United States, Canada, England, and Scotland. Dr. Perkins received the Outstanding Service Award by the Network of Colleges and Universities Committed to the Elimination of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse for career contributions to prevention work, and his work has been frequently cited in U.S. press and television news coverage, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CNN, NPR, New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, and Time Magazine.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

9:00 AM - 4:00 PM


Register below and you will receive the details of this training via email.

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Register for Training

[Registration will close on Tuesday, May 9th end of day]

The enrollment cap for each session is 50 participants

The training will be offered in-person only – there will not be a virtual, hybrid option available

Upcoming Events

  • Thu, May 11
    Michael’s Banquet Facility
    May 11, 2023, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
    Michael’s Banquet Facility, 4885 Southwestern Blvd, Hamburg, NY 14075, USA
    Effective prevention of substance abuse and related problems among youth and young adults requires coordinated efforts using science-based strategies.
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