Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

University of Virginia Small Group Social Norms Program



Implementer: University of Virginia, Center for Alcohol & Substance Education

Partners: United States Department of Education funding

Program Overview: This social norms program was implemented at the University of Virginia in an effort to reduce risky drink drinking behaviors and reduce alcohol-associated negative consequences among fraternity and soririty members.

Program Design: The University of Virginia used a small group social norms approach in an effort to correct misperceptions in norms among fraternity and sorority members. This group was targeted because self-reported rates of drinking are higher among this population than other students. The program began with a 2 day training workshop at the university, along with 2 hour trainings for student facilitators. In addition to the trainign student facilitators received a training manual, presentation script, and a list of resources available to the campus and community. Following training, studen facilitators delivered a 45 minute presentation to their fraternity.sorority chapter. Presentations included discussions of misperceptions of drinking norms, at the chapter and university level, as well as information regarding protective behaviors.

Evaluation: Evaluations of the campaign were assessed using pre and post tests administered to intervention and control fraternities and sororities. 

Key findings: Although there was also a campus-wide social norms program taking place concurrently, the evaluation did find some promising changes among the intervention chapters.

Statisticall siginifcant changes included:

  • increases in the accuracy of perceived weekend drinking
  • decreases in the number of drinking times per month


Bruce, S., Keller, A. (2007). Applying Social Norms Theory within Affiliation Groups: Promising Interventions for High-Risk Drinking. NASPA Journal, 44(1), 101-122.

Target Audience: University/young adults (18-21 years)
Issues: Underage Drinking
Setting: Extra-curricular clubs or organizations, School clubs or community organizations
Approach: Social Norms
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