4 December 2023 Perkins Engages Multiple Audiences in a Series of Lectures

Calling upon his leadership and expertise, Professor of Sociology H. Wesley Perkins was invited to speak at several events this year, focusing on his social norms research. He also shared insights of his work on campus.

This year, Professor of Sociology H. Wesley Perkins was invited to be a guest speaker at national and regional events and venues to discuss his work developing and implementing the social norms approach to prevent risk behavior and promote health among youth and young adults. 

As part of the fall 2023 Friday Faculty Lunch series, Perkins also delivered a presentation of his research, which began at HWS 40 years ago. Sponsored by the Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs, the talk was held on Friday, Dec. 1 in the Common Room (pictured above)

As Perkins began studying the social psychology of student drinking at HWS in the 1980s, he developed what has become known as the social norms approach to promoting health and well-being. Much of the original theory and successful application of the approach evolved out of efforts to reduce alcohol misuse at HWS and at other collegiate settings. Perkins and colleagues have extended the strategy to address the social motivators behind other risky health behaviors. During his faculty talk, Perkins will review this evolution and point to its further expansion internationally.

Most recently off campus, Perkins delivered a talk on social norms at the National Leadership Summit on Overdose Prevention in November. Sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration among other agencies, the virtual national conference drew approximately 3,000 attendees.

Perkins’ other speaking engagements throughout 2023 included:

The Song for Charlie Collaboration Virtual Forum. In October, Perkins and co-speakers Jessica Perkins and Michael Haines presented “Introduction to Social Norms Approach: Applying a Social Norms Framework to Emerging Issues.” The Song for Charlie is a national, family-run nonprofit charity dedicated to raising awareness about emerging dangers of self-medication and casual drug use in the fentanyl era.

Central New York Region Prevention Resource Center. In September, Perkins delivered a talk, “Is Everybody Really Doing It? Using a Social Norms Approach to Successfully Reduce Youth Risk Behaviors” to Syracuse, N.Y. community, secondary school and higher education professionals concerned with health promotion and risk prevention.

The 2023 Youth Substance Use Prevention Institute. In May, Perkins traveled to Denver to deliver a presentation — “Understanding the Influence of Perceptions of Substance Use on Youth Behavior: ‘Everybody is doing it.’—Really?” — to public safety and public health professionals. The Institute was sponsored by ADAPT (A Division for Advancing Prevention and Treatment) at the University of Baltimore’s Center for Drug Policy and Prevention and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) programs of the Rocky Mountains and the Washington/Baltimore area.

Western New York Region Prevention Resource Center. In May, Perkins served as a guest speaker and training leader, offering a talk titled “Is Everybody Really Doing It? Using a Social Norms Approach to Successfully Reduce Youth Risk Behaviors.” The event was provided for community, secondary school and higher education professionals concerned with health promotion and risk prevention in Western New York.

High Truths on Drugs and Addiction. In April, Perkins was a guest on the podcast hosted by Dr. Roneet Lev, an emergency room and addiction physician who has served as first Chief Medical Officer at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Lev interviewed Perkins about social norms theory and his work addressing misperceived norms as a risk prevention strategy among youth and young adults.

ADAPT webinar. In February, Perkins led a nationally available webinar presentation, “Collecting and Using Data in Social Norms Interventions and Impact Assessments for Schools and Communities,” sponsored by ADAPT and the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA.

Over the past two decades, the social norms intervention model has been applied in a variety of settings and across various social circumstances, earning multiple awards from the U.S. Department of Education. An intervention program among student-athletes at HWS has expanded to other NCAA Division III programs, schools abroad and the U.S. Air Force. The social norms research encompasses other peer-influenced behaviors such as adolescent bullying.

Joining the HWS faculty in 1978, Perkins received a B.A. in sociology from Purdue University, a M.Div. degree from Yale University Divinity School and a M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. He has received the HWS faculty prize for outstanding scholarship and the faculty prize for outstanding service to the Colleges’ community.