July 20-22, 2008

2008 National Conference on the Social Norms Approach

Hyatt Regency, San Francisco Airport

Social Norms Research on School Violence in England: Another Look at Misperceived Peer Norms as the Biggest Bully of All

H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Hobart & William Smith Colleges


An online survey has been developed for use in assessing bullying in UK secondary schools and for conducting social norms interventions. The survey reveals attitudes about bullying, incidence levels of bullying, and perceived norms regarding peers. Results from 2, 745 students attending 17 schools in the Greater London area in 2006 show that while bullying is substantial, it is not the norm. The most common (and erroneous) perception is that the majority engage in and support such behavior. This pattern of massive misperceptions is found across school settings with varying sizes, age distributions, and ethnic composition. These misperceptions are confirmed as the strongest predictor of personal bullying behavior and more influential than actual school-wide norms in the local school setting.