Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

Incorporating Social and Cultural Norms into Background Research

Incorporating questions that address social and cultural norms in either focus group discussions, interviews with stakeholders, or in baseline questionnaires is an efficient and direct way to determine the norms of a group, how they differ from others, and whether or not the perceived norms are accurate. Even within the same country, cultures can differ considerably, and norms and expected behaviors may differ, for example, according to religious or ethnic group or by socio-economic status of a community. These factors need to be considered when designing your program. Cultural transfer issues are likely to be even greater when programs are adopted from another country.

Social norms campaigns or interventions should incorporate proximal (closely related to the target group) group-specific normative feedback. Be mindful of cultural or social norms that influence behaviors and behavioral change.

Observations, open-ended interviews, and focus groups with key stakeholders can provide valuable information about the role of both true norms and perceived cultural and social norms. Once the perceived norms are measured, they can be compared to true norms of the same or other proximal groups, and you can determine how your target population can be educated regarding the true norms.

Understanding the true norms and perceived norms of a population will increase the effectiveness of different programs and campaigns that aim to change or re-frame specific behaviors.