Author(s): Baer JS, Carney MM
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Abstract Previous studies have shown that college students' perceptions of the quantity and frequency of peer alcohol consumption are biased. Most students report that their social referents drink more than they themselves do. In the current study members of two fraternities and two sororities (N = 252) were asked to make two types of ratings of alcohol-related consequences across four target individuals. The ratings were: (1) the frequency of occurrence of predefined alcohol-related negative consequences and (2) the degree to which certain alcohol-related consequences are considered "problems." The targets were: themselves, their best friend, a typical member of their fraternity or sorority and a typical student at the university. Estimates of frequency of problem behaviors for typical member of the residence and typical student at the university were significantly higher than ratings for self (p < .001). Data from ratings of behavioral definitions of alcohol problems for the same four targets replicated the bias, although to a lesser degree. Correlational analyses suggest that biased perceptions of problems were unrelated to personal levels of alcohol consumption. Results are discussed in terms of the cognitive and motivational factors that could result in this misrepresentation of peer behavior.
This article was published in J Stud Alcohol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Research & Bioethics