Online survey: clear, friendly, responsive
SHEU has carried out lifestyle surveys with hundreds of thousands of young people for over 30 years and has explored the ideas around social norms. Alan Berkowitz has recently been promoting the idea that people's perceptions of social norms – that is, what you think other people are doing – are an important mechanism for enabling behavioural change.
The idea of social norms comes in and out of fashion, it seems, and in various guises: Kurt Lewin explored group decision making in the 1950s, and when SHEU’s Dr David Regis began research in health education in the 1980s the leading cognitive model of behaviour from Fishbein and Ajzen contained a large component of normative beliefs. SHEU has been exploring these ideas in a few studies recently. We have been asking about young peoples' perceptions of whether their mother, father and teacher like to do physical activities as part of the ‘Fit to Succeed’ project, and also asking several questions about the habits of their brothers and sisters. In a current survey in Stockport, we are asking young people to estimate the alcohol and drug-related habits of other people of their age.
A recent example of SHEU using the social norms approach comes from an evaluation study in Luton.
Pupils were asked about their drinking habits and to estimate, out of a hundred pupils in their school year, how many they believed have drunk any alcohol over the last 7 days? Pupils were also asked, out of every hundred pupils in their school year, how many they believed have got drunk over the last 7 days
Percentage of pupils who reported drinking alcohol last week
Average estimate of percentage of other pupils in their school year who drank alcohol last week
Percentage of pupils who reported getting drunk last week
Average estimate of percentage of other pupils in their school year who got drunk last week
It is immediately obvious that, in each year, pupils' estimates far exceed reports of their own behaviour. There may be many reasons for this but we are sure that it is valuable for pupils to see and reflect on these figures.