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Influences of Misperceptions of Peer Drinking

A recent study built upon existing research on how misperceptions of peer drinking influences college students’ personal drinking behaviors. This study included data from over 1,300 students recorded throughout their freshman year.

The students provided their perception of heavy drinking frequency for a typical college student peer and up to 10 identified important peers that they had personal relationships with. Each participant also provided his or her personal drinking frequency and drinking intentions. Using this data, measures of misperceptions of heavy drinking for typical peers and close peers could be constructed.

The data indicated that majority of students (84.8%) overestimated heavy drinking among their typical peers, and 36.9% overestimated heavy drinking in important peers. For both typical and important peers, overestimation of heavy drinking was associated with more frequent personal heavy drinking and higher drinking intentions.

These results are consistent with previous findings that college students can better predict drinking behaviors of their close friends compared to their peers, and that overestimation of heavy drinking leads to increase in personal heavy drinking.

Take Away: College students tend to overestimate heavy drinking in both typical and important peers. In both cases, this overestimation leads to personal increase in heavy drinking and drinking intentions.

Cox, M.J., DiBello, A.M., Meisel, M.K, Ott, M.Q., Kenney, S.R. et al. (2019). Do Misperceptions of Peer Drinking Influence Personal Drinking Behavior? Results From a Complete Social Network of First-Year College Students. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. doi.org/10.1037/adb0000455

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