- Misperception Correlates with Behavior
Given that a large and growing body of research has
documented the misperception of peer norms in a variety of populations
and for a variety of behaviors, the question arises: Do these misperceptions
positively correlate with behavior? If so, social norms theory suggests
that by correcting such misperceptions (i.e., by reducing overestimations
of the prevalence of a particular behavior), problematic and/or dangerous
behavior will decline.
One recent study (Perkins et al., 2005), based on a sample of more than 76,000 students attending 130 colleges and universities across the nation, found not only that—regardless of the actual campus drinking norm (i.e., be it low, moderate, or high)—a consistently large percentage of students nationwide overestimated the quantity of alcohol consumed by their peers, and that students' perception of their campus drinking norm was the strongest predictor of the amount of alcohol personally consumed in comparison with the influence of all demographic variables. Furthermore, perception of the norm was also a much stronger predictor when compared to the actual campus drinking norm.
Below are some of the other studies in which misperceptions
have been found to correlate with drinking behavior or to predict
individual drinking levels. One of these studies (Larimer and neighbors,
2003) documents similar findings for gambling.
Beck, K.H. & Treiman, K.A. (1996). The
relationship of social context drinking, perceived social norms, and
parental influence to various drinking patterns of adolescents. Addictive
Behaviors, 21 (5), 633-644.
Botvin, G.J. , Griffin, K.W., Diaz, T. & Ifill-Williams, M.(2001). Preventing binge
drinking during early adolescence: One- and two-year follow-up of
a school based preventive intervention. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors,
Clapp, J.D. & McDonnell, A.L. (2000). The relationship of perceptions of alcohol promotion and peer drinking
norms to alcohol problems reported by college students. Journal of
College Student Development, 41 (1), 20-26.
D'Amico, E.J., Metrik, J., McCarthy, D.M. , Frissell, K.C., Appelbaum, M. & Brown, S.A. (2001). Progression
into and out of binge drinking among high school students. Psychology
of Addictive Behaviors, 15, 341-349..
Korcuska, J.S. & Thombs, D.L. (2003). Gender
role conflicts and sex-specific drinking norms:relationship to alcohol
use in undergraduate women and men. Journal of College Student Development,
44 (2), 204-215.
Larimer, M.E. & Neighbors, C. (2003). Normative
misperceptions and the impact of descriptive and injunctive norms
on college student gambling. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 17 (3), 225-243.
Marks, G., Graham, J.W., & Hansen, W.B. (1992).
Social projection and social conformity in adolescent alcohol use:
a longitudinal analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,
18 (1), 96-101.
Page, R.M., Scanlan, A. & Gilbert, L. (1999).
Relationship of the estimation of binge-drinking among college students
and personal participation in binge-drinking: implications for health
education promotion. Health Education, 30, 98-103.
Perkins, H.W. (1985). Religious traditions,
parents, and peers as determinants of alcohol and drug use among college
students. Review of Religious Research, 27 (1), 15-31.
Perkins, H. W., Haines, M. P., & Rice, R. (2005). Misperceiving the college drinking norm and related problems: A nationwide study of exposure to prevention information, perceived norms and student alcohol misuse. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 66 (4), 470-478.
Perkins, H.W. & Weschler, H. (1996). Variation
in perceived college drinking norms and its impact on alcohol abuse:
a nationwide study. Journal of Drug Issues, 26 (4), 961-974.
Prentice, D. A. & Miller, D.T. (1993).
Pluralistic ignorance and alcohol use on campus: some consequences
of misperceiving the social norm. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 64 (2), 243-256.
Scher, K., Bartholow, B.D., & Nanda, S. (2001).
Short and long-term effects of fraternity and sorority membership
on heavy drinking: a social norms perspective. Psychology of Addictive
Behaviors, 15, 42-51, 2001.
Steffian, G. (1999). Correction of normative
misperception: an alcohol abuse prevention program. Journal of Drug
Education, 29 (2), 115-138.
Thombs, D.L. (1999). Alcohol and motor vehicle
use: profiles of drivers and passengers. American Journal of Health
and Behavior, 23, 13-24.
Thombs, D.L., Wolcott, B.J., & Farkash, L.G.E. (1997). Social context,
perceived norms and drinking behavior in young people. Journal of
Substance Abuse, 9, 257-267.
Trockel, M., Williams, S., & Reis, J. (2003).
Considerations for more effective social norms based alcohol education
on campus: An analysis of different theoretical conceptualizations
in predicting drinking among fraternity men. Journal of Studies on
Alcohol, 64, 550-59.