Share Button

In recent months, readers of The Daily Pennsylvanian may have noticed some large advertisements in the paper suggesting that students drink less often than you might think, and consume less when they do drink. At least Stephanie Ives, Penn’s alcohol policy coordinator, hopes they’ve noticed them—and that, over time, the messages will change students’ perceptions and behavior when it comes to alcohol consumption.
  According to Ives, those “social-marketing” messages are based on the work of researchers Wesley Perkins and Alan Berkowitz of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
  “Their theory of misperceptions states that college students misperceive the amount of drinking by their peers,” she says, “and that if you can correct this misperception, you can bring down the drinking to a safer level.” She adds that another researcher, Michael Haines of Northern Illinois University, found college newspapers to be the most “credible source of information” for students, and that after placing ads for the last 10 years, “he saw quite a significant decrease at the level of misperception—and the level of drinking.”
  Since Penn, like most colleges and universities, has been wrestling with the issue of alcohol abuse [“Gazetteer,” May/June and July/August 1999], it is not surprising that it would try the social-marketing approach.
  One of the ads, using information compiled last year by Penn’s Drug and Alcohol Research Team, states that “74 percent of Penn students drink once a week or less.” The other, based on an online survey of 3,504 Penn students conducted this past February and March, notes that “67 percent of Penn students have four or fewer drinks when they party.” While Ives readily acknowledges that the latter statistic means that a sobering 33 percent of Penn students have five or more drinks when they imbibe, she points out that the national average of collegiate drinking at that level is 44 percent.
  In addition to the ads in the DP, posters bearing the messages are now in classrooms, dormitories and other key locations. Students will also be handing out fliers on Locust Walk, Ives says, and will, if challenged, be able and willing to back up the statistics they are citing.
  “The excitement is that using social-marketing campaigns has been one of the only prevention-type programs shown to have a significant impact on the student population,” she adds. “It’s such a great thing for Penn to be really invested in it.”

Share Button

    Related Posts

    Admissions in Transition
    Fighting a Pernicious Evil
    New Digs for the DP

    Leave a Reply