Normative beliefs, misperceptions and heavy episodic drinking in a British student sample

McAlaney, J; McMahon, J; (2007) Normative beliefs, misperceptions and heavy episodic drinking in a British student sample. Journal of studies on alcohol, 68 (3). pp. 385-92. ISSN 0096-882X

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OBJECTIVE: Numerous studies have demonstrated the existence and effect of normative misperceptions on heavy episodic drinking behavior. However, there has been little work on these processes or application of normative-belief interventions outside the U.S. college system. The aim of the current study, therefore, was to investigate heavy episodic drinking and normative misperceptions in a U.K. university setting. METHOD: An email containing a link to a survey Web site was distributed to all current undergraduate students at the University of Paisley, Scotland. In addition to age and gender questions, the survey contained items on students' personal behavior and perception of the level of that behavior in three groups of increasing social distance: close friends, other students of the same age, and other people of the same age in U.K. society in general. RESULTS: Completed surveys from 500 respondents were returned. In keeping with previous research, significant correlations were found between the respondents' behavior and the perception of that behavior in others, with beliefs about the most proximal individuals being the most strongly correlated. The majority of respondents were also found to overestimate alcohol consumption in other students. An age effect was noted, in which misperceptions appeared to decrease with age but did not vary between genders. CONCLUSIONS: The findings of the study indicate that the normative-belief alcohol consumption processes that have been found on U.S. college campuses also operate in U.K. university settings. This raises the possibility of applying social-norms interventions from the United States to the United Kingdom and potentially elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, the study noted apparent age effects in the degree of misperception, the implications of which are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Adolescent, Adult, Alcoholic Intoxication, epidemiology, psychology, Alcoholism, epidemiology, psychology, Awareness, Cross-Sectional Studies, Cultural Characteristics, Culture, Denial (Psychology), Female, Humans, Male, Reference Values, Scotland, Self Disclosure, Social Perception, Students, psychology, statistics & numerical data
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
PubMed ID: 17446978
Web of Science ID: 248712900009


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