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How do perceptions of close peers’ drinking behavior affect college students?

Young adults often can overestimate their peers’ level of drinking, leading to drinking more themselves. This study looked at both important peers and general peers in a college sample to see if social importance or closeness of peers affected this dynamic. Researchers asked students in a social network to track their drinking behaviors and estimate the drinking behavior of others. They found that students were more accurate when predicting the drinking behaviors of their close peers, but that overestimating peer behavior was still associated with heavier drinking.

The paper, “Do misperceptions of peer drinking influence personal drinking behavior? Results from a complete social network of first-year college students,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and appeared in the journal, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Research & Resources