Self-other differences in student drinking norms research: the role of impression management, self-deception and measurement methodology

Melson, A. J. , Monk, R. L. and Heim, D. (2016) Self-other differences in student drinking norms research: the role of impression management, self-deception and measurement methodology. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 40(12), pp. 2639-2647. (doi: 10.1111/acer.13241) (PMID:27699801)

128770.pdf - Accepted Version



Background: Data-driven student drinking norms interventions are based on reported normative overestimation of the extent and approval of an average student’s drinking. Self-reported differences between personal and perceived normative drinking behaviors and attitudes are taken at face value as evidence of actual levels of overestimation. This study investigates whether commonly used data collection methods and socially desirable responding may inadvertently impede establishing 'objective' drinking norms. Methods: UK students [N=421; 69% female; Mean age 20.22 years (SD = 2.5)] were randomly assigned to one of three versions of a drinking norms questionnaire: The standard multi-target questionnaire assessed respondents' drinking attitudes and behaviors (frequency of consumption, heavy drinking, units on a typical occasion) as well as drinking attitudes and behaviors for an ‘average student’. Two deconstructed versions of this questionnaire assessed identical behaviors and attitudes for participants themselves or an 'average student'. The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding was also administered. Results: Students who answered questions about themselves and peers reported more extreme perceived drinking attitudes for the average student compared with those reporting solely on the ‘average student’. Personal and perceived reports of drinking behaviors did not differ between multi- and single-target versions of the questionnaire. Among those who completed the multi-target questionnaire, after controlling for demographics and weekly drinking, socially desirable responding was related positively with the magnitude of difference between students’ own reported behaviors/attitudes and those perceived for the average student. Conclusions: Standard methodological practices and socially desirable responding may be sources of bias in peer norm overestimation research.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Melson, Dr Ambrose
Authors: Melson, A. J., Monk, R. L., and Heim, D.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
ISSN (Online):1530-0277
Published Online:04 October 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Research Society on Alcoholism
First Published:First published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 40(12):2639-2647
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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