Innovative Prevention

Social Norms Campaign

Social Norms Theory states that much of people’s behavior is influenced by their perception of how other members of their social group behave. The social group behaviors are perceived as normal, even if they are unhealthy choices and not the actual norm (ex. substance use/abuse). These behaviors are behaviors members of the social group strive to adopt. By educating a group about positive behaviors, that is in fact the normal practice among peers, research shows that behavior will be affected in a positive manner.

The Social Norms Campaign is a campaign to promote healthy behaviors and show disconnect between actual drug use and perceived drug use. This includes gathering credible and accurate data to communicate an effective message. With repeated exposure to a variety of data driven positive messages misperception changes and a greater proportion of the population begins to act in accord with the more accurately perceived norms. Youth are involved throughout the whole process of the Social Norms Campaign.

The Social Norms Campaign started in 2007 and was implemented at a Dallas area High School. The campaign utilized a core team of adult campus staff and local consultants to plan, implement and evaluate. After the core team of adults was in place a street team was established. The campaign utilized the street team to begin the social epidemic of spreading the good news and health that exists which will be marketed through the campaign. The students were a key part in implementing the campaign. The campaign has decreased usage, decreased the perception that “everyone is doing it”, and increased the perception of risk for cheese/heroin, and is continuing to promote healthy behaviors and to challenge misperceptions about cheese/heroin use.

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