A Deeper Look into Social Norms


  • go a few miles over the speed limit?
  • never wear white after Labor Day?
  • refrain from picking your nose in public?
  • ask someone how they are doing and keep walking past them?
  • talk to someone in another stall in the bathroom?
  • eat off other peoples’ plates?
  • choose not to use all capital letters when you text because you know that is considered “shouting”?

What do all of these behaviors have in common?

They are all social norms, rules and accepted behaviors for how people should or should not act in a given group or society. We don’t even think about why we do all of these things. We have always done them. Some social norms are spoken and defined while others are unspoken and undefined. They can change with time, and they can change depending on the group, society, or culture.

Social norms drive our behaviors. We do them because we think that the majority of people are doing them, and it is the normal thing to do.

But sometimes, people may misperceive a social norm and think that a behavior occurs more often than it really does.

When it comes to alcohol and other drugs, this can be a slippery slope. For example, teens are out at a party where alcohol is being served. If they think that most of the people their age drink alcohol, then they will feel greater pressure to belong and take a drink. Why do they think that most of their peers drink, and how does that influence their behavior?

This will help explain why:









Social norms campaigns help to clarify misperceptions of certain norms by communicating the truth that most do not engage in those behaviors. Studies show that, as a result, these campaigns can actually reduce this type of risky behavior. By focusing on the positive, we can help protect our youth and keep our communities safe!

Below are some examples of social norms campaigns that have done just that!









LCBAG Social Norms






Do you have any resources on social norms campaigns that you’d like to share? If so, let us know!


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