Social Norms and Alcohol: The Small Groups Norms-challenging Model Jeanne M. Far, Ph. D. John A. Miller, M. S., M. Ed. Washington State University Small Group Model Norms- Challenging Intervention Projects •Greek System •Summer Orientation •Curriculum Infusion - Classrooms •Athletic Teams •Residence Halls Social Norms Theory: Students misperceive others’ attitudes, values, and behaviors These misperceptions affect one’s own beliefs and behaviors Correcting misperceptions empowers healthy values and supports healthy behaviors Social Norms Theory •Human beings experience basic needs to: belong – have a sense of community, of connectedness to others be somebody – have a sense of purpose and value, of making a meaningful contribution •We are social creatures who are influenced by: what others say, do or believe what we think others say, do or believe Social Norms Theory •One way to satisfy these needs is to adopt the attitudes, expectations and behaviors or our reference group and conform to some degree with those of our peers. •These become our “norms” – unspoken social rules or codes about how we are supposed to behave and what we are supposed to believe to fit in and belong. Peer Influence •Young people, particularly those away from home such as students at residential college campuses, tend to adopt peer attitudes and behaviors as contact with peers is close and frequent. •Peers set standards of acceptable and valuable behavior, and students tend to think and act like their peers. •This holds true for AOD use attitudes and behaviors. The Misperception Hypothesis •Norms are not explicitly taught or explained. •Consequently, our perceptions of the attitudes and behaviors of our peers are not always accurate. •Accurate or not, our perceived norms become our reality and we adjust our behavior accordingly. The Misperception Hypothesis •This holds true for AOD use attitudes and behaviors. (Graham et al, 1991; Prentice & Miller, 1993) •Students misperceive the alcohol use norms of their peers, believing most students drink, and approve of drinking, more than they really do. (Perkins & Berkowitz, 1986) •As a result, they raise their alcohol use level to conform to these “inaccurate realities,” and student drinking increases. How Misperceptions Work: Public Conversation •We tend to focus on and remember unusual, exceptional, or sensational behaviors; they leave vivid impressions. •We tend to focus on and talk about these behaviors with our peers while not focusing on or talking about the typical or usual behaviors that were also present. •The behavior becomes more sensational in the telling. •In a short time, it sounds like most people were engaging in the sensational behavior. •This distorts the actual reality, or normative behavior, of the event and enhances the misperception of what actually took place. How Misperceptions Work: The Media •Local media tend to focus on sensational, negative or problematic behavior and events. •Repeated focus on the sensational, negative or problematic to the exclusion of more usual, non-problematic behavior, creates a distorted perception that this behavior is normative. The behavior becomes more sensational in the telling. •This contributes to our misperceptions of actual events, attitudes and behaviors. How Misperceptions Work - Summary •Attitudes and behaviors are misperceived; the misperception becomes the reality. •People adjust their attitudes and behaviors accordingly. •A “reign of error” is produced, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy which has a snowball effect. •Those who disagree with what they misperceive to be the normative behavior believe there is little support for their point of view – “pluralistic ignorance” •Opposition is discouraged from speaking out for fear of criticism and/or rejection – “bystander phenomenon” •Students and others buy into the misperception and become “carriers” of the inaccurate reality, passing it on to others. The Good News •We may reverse this process by providing students with accurate information through social norms interventions (Hansen & Graham, 1991) that aim to Correct students’ misperceptions of student alcohol use attitudes and behaviors Highlight the proportion of students who consume moderately and responsibly (or do not drink at all). The Small Group Intervention Background/Theory: • Reference Group/Membership Group Identification • Motivational Interviewing Theory • Cognitive Dissonance • Bystander Phenomenon • Social Norms Discussion Major Theoretical Influences on Presentation Style and Format Critical Task: avoid arousing defensiveness and blocking change Festinger: Cognitive dissonance and disconfirming information “Flying saucer people” Rokeach: Values, stability, and change “Great American Values Test” Motivational Interviewing and Stages of Change Exploring and resolving ambivalence Cognitive Dissonance Violating one’s own values feels bad How to reconcile behavior, misperceptions, and values? Changing to avoid dissonance Men - tend to internalize new values, change behavior to match misperceptions Women - tend NOT to internalize new values, but change behavior to match misperceptions anyway Whatever the outcome, it isn’t desirable Rokeach: Respect Allows People to Change After watching a TV show about values, people changed their behavior (donating to political causes). Rokeach hypothesized that the people who changed CHOSE to change after learning the new values information - their behavior shifted to match their new values. The TV format allowed “confrontation” to happen in the privacy of people’s own minds. It was respectful and didn’t force them to protect their old beliefs and behaviors in order to “save face” - even to themselves. Motivation and Precontemplation In “precontemplation” people are not yet aware of a problem and so are not yet considering change. We want to raise doubts or concerns about person’s current behavior - is it in line with values (is there discrepancy or dissonance)? We want to mobilize people’s intrinsic values and goals to stimulate behavior change. “Denial of a problem” is primarily a reaction to the behavior of the “messenger.” The “Spirit” of Motivational Interviewing (1) Motivation comes from within the person, not from without (our efforts to change them). It is up to the person to recognize and resolve ambivalence (dissonance). Direct persuasion is not an effective method for examining and resolving ambivalence (dissonance). Trying too hard will increase resistance and diminish the probability of change. The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing (2) The most effective style is quiet and eliciting: the person’s own desire to change is primary. Providing the opportunity to be aware of dissonance is our best strategy. Readiness to change is strongly affected by presenter style. The most helpful “relationship” is that of partners in exploring information, rather than “expert” and “student.” Facilitating vs Presenting Be a Facilitator: Follow “Far’s First Law” (“You can lead a perfectly adequate 2-hour discussion without even knowing what the topic is.”) Ask, don’t tell. Draw out others’ knowledge and thoughts. Don’t be a Presenter: Presenters are expert sources of information. Presenters provide a set body of knowledge. Presenters are “talking heads.” Theory into Practice: Facilitator Style Avoid arousing defensiveness Don’t confront or argue with anyone Presenting disconfirming information Game show host: “Here’s what it really is!” Empowering change Don’t cause anyone to “lose face” Columbo: “Gee, I wonder how that happened?” You’re not the expert, the participants are The Magician: Keep up the “patter” Protect people from public confrontations and give them the time/space/privacy to change Avoid arousing defensiveness: Don’t be drawn into arguments if people disagree with the data or other elements of the presentation. Instead, refer them to the “authorities” who developed the material. Don’t ask people specifically what they did or what they think. Instead, ask open-ended questions of the group in general. Don’t make any behaviors or numbers look “bad.” Instead, let people look and then make their own judgements. Presenting disconfirming information: Let the information speak for itself Don’t ever read the overheads to people - everyone is going to read them anyway (we’re wired that way), and you don’t want to bore people or sound like an “instructor.” Think of yourself as a “Game Show Host” who is giving just having fun with people. People will be pretty surprised when they see their own misperceptions: “Well, isn’t that just amazing?” “Everybody gets this wrong - wonder how that happens?” Empowering Change As Facilitators, we truly believe that people have good values and want to live by them. This program is based on RESPECT. We’re not telling people made-up stuff in order to change their minds. We’re giving them accurate information and letting them decide what they want to do with it. Allowing people to “save face” gives them more opportunity to become their best selves. Columbo the Detective: “Gee, I wonder how that happened?” Columbo just wandered around looking clueless, and so no one found him threatening. Let yourself NOT KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS. Experts put people on their guard as they wait to be shown as wrong or stupid. You just sort of scratch your head and say “Aw shucks, look at that!” when showing people their numbers. That way, their numbers are “OK” no matter how they answered the surveys. The Magician: Keep up the “patter” We want to allow the numbers to sink in without arousing defensiveness, so we distract people and avoid arguments with “entertainment.” Magicians keep you busy watching their left hands (or the smoke or doves or assistants) while they “do the magic” with their right hands. We keep people busy with “patter” - asking open- ended questions, making general comments, eliciting feedback - so they can take in the numbers without feeling directly confronted or threatened. Points to Remember Norms are powerful influences on people’s behavior. You don’t have to convince anyone about the materials or numbers. Good facilitators aren’t experts - they just have information to share, and want everyone to contribute to the discussion. When people have accurate information, they will make good, healthy decisions for themselves. You can let them do that.