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Health Promotion

Social Norms Marketing

What is the Stall Seat Journal?

The Stall Seat Journal (SSJ) is a poster created by professionals and students from the Office of Health Promotion. It uses a social norms approach with data from U.Va. students to showcase the healthy choices they're making.  It also educates about safe, responsible choices around a variety of health issues. The SSJ hangs in the bathroom stalls of first-year dorms, Newcomb, and Elson Student Health Center.

What is social norms?

People tend to overestimate certain unhealthy behaviors. One reason is that many of these behaviors are visible and they draw our attention, like people smoking or a person passed out at a party. One survey showed 68% of U.Va. students overestimated the number of drinks per week that most U.Va. students consume.

Likewise, people tend to underestimate certain healthy behaviors because they are largely invisible or "part of the pattern." Studying, prayer and using a condom are all examples of this. 32% of U.Va. students didn’t realize that most U.Va. students, while drinking alcohol, make their own drinks or watch their drinks being made.

Overestimating unhealthy behaviors and underestimating healthy behaviors can create internal pressure to behave a certain way. By correcting misperceptions like these and focusing on the accurate 'norm,' students have space to act on their own values.

Where do we get our data?

The University of Virginia's Office of Health Promotion coordinates anonymous web-based surveys to random samples of undergraduate U.Va. students each year. The surveys primarily ask about behaviors, perceptions and attitudes around alcohol.

In Spring 2010, 1,475 students completed the survey and in Fall 2010, 1,708 students completed it. In both cases, we ended with a 37% response rate (which is great in research land!). Each sample reflects the sex, ethnicity, and academic year distributions of U.Va. To promote honesty and completeness in self-reporting, the surveys are anonymous and participation is voluntary.

If you are invited to participate in an upcoming survey, know that your answers will help the Stall Seat Journal and give us an accurate perception of life in Hooville!

Your materials have a different tone.  Why?

Social Norms Marketing takes the approach of highlighting healthy behaviors instead of focusing on risk and negative consequences. This tact is an intention deviation from the 'scare tactics' approach because research has shown that method does not change behavior. Additionally, most students are participating in healthy behaviors, and we like to highlight this.

Another big difference is in the tone. Information is presented accurately in a non-directive, non-judgmental manner. By not telling people what to think or how to behave and still providing them with accurate information, they are able to come to their own conclusions. This method respects you as the intelligent adults you are.

All of the materials that come out of the Office of Health Promotion, and not just those that are correcting misperceptions, takes a health-positive approach.

How can I get involved?

We want to hear from you! The good and the bad. What content was confusing and what was helpful? What designs were hard to read and which ones were your favorites?  We are always open to feedback – just email with your thoughts.

Occasionally, we hold 1-hour long focus groups where we ask students a variety of questions and thank them for their time with lunch and a gift certificate to Arch's.  We advertise these in Connections. If you would like to be on our list, drop us a line.

We also have several undergraduate student positions that help the SSJ get from start to finish. Interns help develop and review content, and conduct intercept interviews with students to get feedback on messages and designs. Graphic Designers take the content and develop appealing layouts.  Campaign Assistants distribute the SSJs to bathroom stalls monthly. We hire student positions in April for the following academic year. Positions are posted on CavLink and advertised in Connections starting after Spring Break.

Finally, one of the most important ways to support the SSJ is to read it and talk about the content with friends.

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