H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D., Dept. of Anthropology/Sociology, Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Much research has documented extensive misperceptions of drinking norms and their negative effects in U.S. student populations. This presentation provides extensive research evidence documenting this phenomenon in Canadian higher education based on a 2003-2004 survey of over 5,000 students attending 11 institutions across Canada. Regardless of the actual drinking norm on each campus, students overwhelmingly overestimate the alcohol consumption norms (both quantity and frequency levels) as well as how permissive peers are in their attitudes about drinking in every instance. Students’ perception of their campus drinking norm is the strongest predictor of the amount of alcohol personally consumed in comparison with the influence of all demographic variables. Perception of the norm was also a much stronger predictor of personal use than the actual campus norm for consumption on each campus or the actual norm for compliance with campus regulations. Misperceptions are also strongly associated with less use of protective behaviors and greater negative consequences of drinking. Among students who personally abstain or consume modestly, their misperceptions of the student drinking norms contribute to their alienation from campus life.
H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Dept. of Anthropology/Sociology
Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Geneva, New York 14456
Phone: (315) 781-3437
Fax: (315) 781-3422