Change the Target

On a recent hazing prevention project, we asked students how they felt about a series of situations commonly associated with hazing. To our great surprise, 75-98% of students found each situation to be unacceptable.

The lesson? We don't need to preach about the perils of hazing. Or hammer home the rules. Or argue about what's ethical. They get it!

Awareness: Check Agreement: Check

But hazing still exists, so how do we proceed? Maybe rather than trying to convince or persuade, prevention efforts should focus on changing the cultural artifacts that allow it to continue.

Attitudes: ? Skills: ? Social Context: ?

For this project, we skipped over the definition and instead targeted misperceptions (as measured by the assessment) about the importance of tradition and the taboo of discussing hazing, as well as the barriers - physical, social, and organizational - that were preventing people from challenging bad ideas.

So the next time you hear, "if we could only get everyone in a room to educate (convince) them, our problem would be solved," think twice. Awareness, understanding, and agreement are a starting point, but there are so many more powerful factors that drive behavior. If you really want a change, you have to change the target.