Formative Evaluation is the first step in a social norms campaign. Formative evaluation consists of surveying the population and message creation based on the survey results. The formative evaluation phase is the time when information regarding perceived norms and actual behaviors are garnered from the audience. In order for an approach to be the appropriate means for intervention, two conditions must first be satisfied:
- There must be misperceptions between actual behavior and perceived behavior - This simply means that there must be a difference between what people do and what they think other people do. If there is no difference, the social norms approach is not the correct way to go. A caveat is that there is almost always a difference. Sometimes a more sensitive instrument is necessary to uncover the misperceptions.
- At least half of the population must behave “correctly” – If over half of the population behaves in a way that is contrary to the intervention, a social norms approach is not the best interventional strategy. For example, social norms approach assumes that individuals want to be normal. If most of the individuals (i.e., over 50%) behave in a way that is harmful, a social norms message campaign might encourage the harmful behavior. It is important to ask questions about both descriptive and injunctive norms
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