There are over seventy-five (75) published studies documenting
the misperception of peer norms for a variety of substances and behaviors.
Many of these studies are described in detail in several recent reviews
of the literature by Berkowitz (2004), Perkins (2003, 2014), and Borsari and
Misperception of the norms of peer alcohol use have
been documented in a number of college and university social
norms interventions (Haines and Spear, 1996; Johannessen et al., 2001;
Perkins and Craig, 2003; Jeffrey et al., 2003; Fabiano, 2003). It should
be noted, however, that misperceptions of student alcohol use are held
by all members of the college and university campus community, from
the students themselves to faculty and staff (Berkowitz, 1997; Berkowitz
and Perkins, 1986; University of Michigan, 1993).
In addition, two separate studies using nationwide databases drawn from colleges and universities have documented that college students typically misperceive their peer drinking norms. One of these studies (Perkins et al., 2005), based on a sample of more than 76,000 students attending 130 colleges and universities across the nation, found 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. A prior study (Perkins et al., 1999) using a nationwide database drawn from 100 colleges and universities documented that college students typically misperceive their peer substance use norms by substantially overestimating how frequently the typical students uses a variety of substances, including alcohol.
Misperception of the norms of peer alcohol use have
also been documented in a statewide sample of both college and non-college
young adults (Linkenbach and Perkins, 2003), as well as among middle
and high school students (Beck and Treiman, 1996; Botvin et al., 2001;
D'Amico et al., 2001; Haines et al., 2003; Perkins and Craig, 2003;
Thombs et al., 1997; Juvonen et al., 2007).
Misperception of peer substance use is not limited to
alcohol, however, A number of studies have documented misperceptions
of the prevalence of cigarette smoking among peers (Haines et al., 2003;
Hancock and Henry, 2003; Linkenbach and Perkins, 2003; Perkins and Craig,
2002) as well as marijuana and other illegal drugs use (Hansen and Graham,
1991; Perkins, 1985; Perkins and Craig, 2003; Perkins et al., 1999;
Pollard et al., 2000; Wolfson, 2000).
Interestingly, misperceptions have also been documented
for a variety of other behaviors, including tax compliance (Wenzel,
2001), gambling (Larimer and Neighbors, 2003), bullying (Bigsby,
2002; Perkins, Craig, & Perkins, 2011), sugar-sweetened beverages (Perkins, 2010a), peer body weight norms (Perkins, 2010b), sexual activity (Lewis, Lee, Patrick, & Fossos, 2007; Lynch, Mowrey, Nesbitt, & O'Neill, 2004; Martens et al., 2006; Scholly, Katz, Gascoigne, & Holck, 2005; Seal & Agostinelli, 1996; Fabiano, Perkins, Berkowitz, Linkenbach, & Stark, 2003), and intimate partner violence (Neighbors, Walker, et al., 2010).
Beck, K.H. and Treiman, K.A. The relationship
of social context drinking, perceived social norms, and parental influence
to various drinking patterns of adolescents. Addictive Behaviors, 21(5):633-644.
Berkowitz, A.D. An overview of the
social norms approach. In Lederman et al. (Eds.) Changing the Culture
of College Drinking: A Socially Situated Prevention Campaign
Berkowitz, A. D. From reactive to proactive
prevention: Promoting an ecology of health on campus." In Rivers,
P.C. and Shore, E. (Eds.) A Handbook on Substance Abuse for College
and University Personnel. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Bigsby, M.J. Seeing eye to eye? Comparing students' and parents' perceptions
of bullying behavior. School of Social Work Journal, 27(1):37-57, 2002.
Borsari, B., and Carey, K.B. Decriptive
and injunctive norms in college drinking: A meta-analytic integration.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol, May 2003.
Botvin, G.J. et al. Preventing binge
drinking during early adolescence: One- and two-year follow-up of a
school based preventive intervention. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors,
D'Amico, E.J. et al. Progression into
and out of binge drinking among high school students. Psychology of
Addictive Behaviors, 15:341-349, 2001.
Fabiano, P. M. Applying the social
norms model to universal and indicated alcohol interventions at Western
Washington University. In Perkins, H.W. (Ed.) The Social Norms Approach
To Preventing School And College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook For
Educators, Counselors, And Clinicians. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
Fabiano, P., Perkins, H.W., Berkowitz, A., Linkenbach, J.
and Stark, C. "Engaging men as social justice allies
in ending violence against women: evidence for a social norms approach." Journal of American College Health, 2003, Vol. 52 No. 3, pp. 105-112.
Glider, P. et al. Challenging the collegiate
rite of passage: a campus-wide social marketing media campaign to reduce
binge drinking. Journal of Drug Education, 31(2):207-220, 2001.
Haines, M.P. et al. Using social norms
to reduce alcohol and tobacco use in two midwestern high schools. In
Perkins, H.W. (Ed.) The Social Norms Approach To Preventing School And
College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook For Educators, Counselors, And
Clinicians. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
Haines, M.P. and Spear, A. F. (1996).
"Changing the perception
of the norm: A strategy to decrease binge drinking among college students."
Journal of American College Health, 45, 134-140.
Hancock, L. and Henry, N. Perceptions,
norms and tobacco use in college residence hall freshmen: Evaluation
of a social norms marketing intervention. In Perkins, H.W. (Ed.) The
Social Norms Approach To Preventing School And College Age Substance
Abuse: A Handbook For Educators, Counselors, And Clinicians. San Francisco:
Hansen, W. B. & J. W. Graham. Preventing
alcohol, marijuana, and cigarette use among adolescents: Peer pressure
resistance training versus establishing conservative norms. Preventive
Medicine, 20, 414-430, 1991.
Jeffrey, L., P. Negro, D. Miller and J. Frisone.
"The Rowan University social norms project. In Perkins, H.W. (Ed.)
The Social Norms Approach To Preventing School And College Age Substance
Abuse: A Handbook For Educators, Counselors, And Clinicians. San Francisco:
Johannessen, K. et al. The University
of Arizona's campus health social norms media campaign. In Perkins,
H.W. (Ed.) The Social Norms Approach To Preventing School And College
Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook For Educators, Counselors, And Clinicians.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
Johannessen, K., Collins, C., Mills-Novoa, B.,
& Glider, P. (1999). A
Practical Guide to Alcohol Abuse Prevention: A Campus Case Study in
Implementing Social Norms and Environmental Management Approaches.
Tucson, AZ: Campus Health Service, The University of Arizona.
Juvonen, J. Martino, S., Ellickson, P. & Longshore, D. "But Others do it!" Do misperceptions of schoolmate alcohol and marijuana use predict subsequent drug use among young adolescents? Journal of Applied Psychology, 37(4): 740-758, 2007.
Larimer, M.E. and Neighbors, C. Normative
misperceptions and the impact of descriptive and injunctive norms on
college student gambling. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 17(3):225-243,
Lewis, M., Lee, C., Patrick, M., & Fossos, N. Gender-specific normative misperceptions of risky sexual behavior and alcohol-related risky sexual-behavior. Sex Roles, 57: 81-90, 2007.
Linkenbach, J. W. and H. W. Perkins.
Misperceptions of peer alcohol norms in a statewide survey of young
adults. In Perkins, H.W. (Ed.) The Social Norms Approach to Preventing
School and College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook for Educators, Counselors,
and Clinicians. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003a.
Linkenbach, J.W. and Perkins, H.W.
MOST of Us are tobacco free: an eight-month social norms campaign reducing
youth initiation of smoking in Montana. In Perkins, H.W. (Ed.) The Social
Norms Approach to Preventing School and College Age Substance Abuse:
A Handbook for Educators, Counselors, and Clinicians. San Francisco,
CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003b.
Lynch, J.F., Mowrey, R.J., Nesbitt, G.M., and O'Neill, D.F. Risky Business: Misperceived Norms of Sexual Behavior Among College Students. ASPA Journal, (Fall), 42(1):21-35, 2004.
Martens, M., Page, J., Mowrey, E., Damann, K., Taylor, K., & Cimini, M.D. Differences between actual and perceived student norms: An examination of alcohol use, drug use, and sexual behavior. Journal of American College Health, 54(5), 295-300, 2006.
Mattern, J. and Neighbors, C. Social
norms campaigns: examining the relationship between changes in perceived
norms and changes in drink levels. Forthcoming in: Journal of Studies
Neighbors, C., Walker, D., Mbilinyi, L., O'Rourke, A., Edleson, J., Zegree, J., et al. Normative misperceptions of abuse among perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Violence Agaist Women, 16(4), 370-386, 2010.
Perkins, H. W. "Misperception is Reality: The "Reign of Error" About Peer Risk Behaviour Norms Among Youth and Young Adults." In Xenitidou, M. and B. Edmonds. (Eds.) The Complexity of Social Norms, Computational Social Sciences. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 11-36, 2014.
Perkins, H. W. The emergence and evolution
of the social norms approach to substance abuse prevention. In Perkins,
H.W. (Ed.) The Social Norms Approach to Preventing School and College
Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook for Educators, Counselors, and Clinicians.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
Perkins, H. W. Religious traditions,
parents, and peers as determinants of alcohol and drug use among college
students. Review of Religious Research. 27(1):15-31, 1985.
Perkins, H. W. & Berkowitz, A. D.
Perceiving the community norms of alcohol use among students: Some research
implications for campus alcohol education programming." International
Journal of the Addictions, 21:961-976, 1986.
Perkins, H. W. and Craig, D. The HWS
experiment: A synergistic social norms approach using print, electronic
media and curriculum infusion to reduce collegiate problem drinking.
In Perkins, H.W. (Ed.) The Social Norms Approach to Preventing School
and College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook for Educators, Counselors,
and Clinicians. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003.
Perkins, H. W. and Craig, D. (2002)
Social Norms Approach to Reduce High-Risk Drinking. Newton, MA:
The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, Education
Development Center, Inc.
Perkins, H. Wesley, David W. Craig, and Jessica M. Perkins Using Social Norms to Reduce Bullying: A Research Intervention in Five Middle Schools. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 2011, 14(5):703-722.
Perkins, H. W., Haines, M. P., and Rice, R.
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, 2005, 66(4):470-478.
Perkins, H. W., Meilman, P.W., Leichliter, J.S., Cashin, J.R., Presley, C.A. Misperceptions
of the norms for the frequency of alcohol and other drug use on college
campuses. Journal of American College Health, 47(6): 253-258, 1999.
Perkins, Jessica M., H. Wesley Perkins, and David W. Craig Misperceptions of Peer Norms as a Risk Factor for Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption among Secondary School Students. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2010a, 110(12):1916-1921.
Perkins, Jessica M., H. Wesley Perkins, and David W. Craig Peer Weight Norm Misperception as a Risk Factor for Being Over- and Underweight Among UK Secondary School Students. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010b, 64:965-971.
Pollard, J. W. et al. Predictions of
normative drug use by college students: False consensus, false uniqueness,
or just plain accuracy? Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 14(3),
Scholly, K., Katz, A.R., Gascoigne, J., and Holck, P.S.,
Using Social Norms Theory to Explain Perceptions and Sexual Health Behaviors of Undergraduate College Students: An Exploratory Study. Journal of American College Health, 53(4):159-166, 2005.
Seal, D. W., Agostinelli, G. College students' perceptions of the prevalence of risky sexual behavior. AIDS Care, 8(4): 453-466, 1996.
Thombs, D.L. et al. Social context,
perceived norms and drinking behavior in young people. Journal of Substance
Abuse, 9:257-267, 1997.
University of Michigan. University
of Michigan Survey Regarding Alcohol and Other Drugs. UM Initiative
on Alcohol and Other Drugs, Ann Arbor, MI, 1993.
Wenzel, M. "Misperceptions
of Social Norms About Tax Compliance (2): A Field Experiment."
Working Paper No 8: Centre for Tax System Integrity, Research School
of Social Sciences (Australian National University), 2001.
Wolfson, S. Students' estimates of
the prevalence of drug use: evidence for a false consensus effect. Psychology
of Addictive Behaviors, 14(3):295-298, 2000.