Perkins – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Perkins

I have an article in press at the moment that is coming out this year (I think fairly soon) in the journal, Addictive Behaviors, in a special issue focusing on college student drinking. This article may be of interest to the media because it provides a large study of students across Canada. The major magazine, Maclean’s, of Canada gave attention to some of this work a year or two ago in an article when one of their writers interviewed me and I was still doing the research before I had even submitted it for publication. Others might be interested now that something is coming out in print in a peer reviewed journal.

I mention this in case you think it is worth preparing a press release about the study to try to get some news attention. I have attached the in press article here if you are interested.

When the article officially appears, I can submit the information as a news item for our regular HWS news listing but my question is whether a press release on this might be of interest to send out to reporters to see if there are any nibbles.

H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology and Chair

Department of Anthropology and Sociology


Objective: Much research has documented extensive misperceptions of drinking norms and their negative effects in
U.S. student populations. This study provides extensive research evidence documenting this phenomenon in
Canadian higher education.
Methods: Data were collected in a 2003-2004 survey of students (N=5280) attending 11 institutions across
Canada. Surveys were administered either to a random sample of students through the mail or to students attending
a diverse selection of classes.
Results: Regardless of the actual drinking norm on each campus, students most commonly overestimated the
alcohol consumption norms (both quantity and frequency levels) in every instance. Students' perception of their
campus drinking norm was 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. Among students who personally abstain or consume lightly, misperceptions of the student
drinking norms contribute to alienation from campus life.
Conclusion: The data presented here on Canadian students extends the evidence that peer drinking norms are
grossly misperceived and that these misperceptions produce a highly detrimental “reign of error in the lives of
college students. The data suggest that a broad range of students—abstainers and light drinkers as well as moderate
and heavy drinkers—may benefit from implementing intervention strategies that can correct or reduce these
misperceptions.