Helge Giese, F. Marijn Stok & Britta Renner

Perceiving college peers’ alcohol consumption: temporal patterns and individual differences in overestimation

Giese, H., Stok, F.M., & Renner, B. (2018). Perceiving College Peers' Alcohol Consumption: Temporal Patterns and Individual Differences in Overestimation. Psychology & Health. Advanced online pulication. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2018.1514118

Objective: This study examines temporal patterns and individual differences of overestimation in alcohol norm perception within a social network.
Design: Hundred psychology freshmen indicated biweekly during their first semester the drinks they consumed, the perceived average of their peers’ consumption, and with whom they were acquainted. At baseline, trait self-control was assessed.
Main outcome: The moderation of alcohol consumption overestimation by time and individual characteristics was explored.
Results: Results show that students overestimated alcohol consumption of their acquainted peers by 1.22 drinks (p < .001). For time periods at which peers reported high consumption, overestimation decreased. Additionally, individuals reporting high alcohol consumption (b = −0.25, p < .001) and low self-control (b = 0.27, p = .010) showed higher overestimation.
Conclusions: Students overestimate the alcohol consumption of peers not fully accounting for changes in peer-reports. Furthermore, individual differences suggest informational and motivational processes underlying overestimation.