Evaluating level of specificity of normative referents in relation to personal drinking behavior.

Mary E. Larimer, Debra L. Kaysen, Christine M. Lee, Jason R. Kilmer, Melissa A. Lewis, Tiara Dillworth, Heidi D. Montoya, Clayton Neighbors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Research has found perceived descriptive norms to be one of the strongest predictors of college student drinking, and several intervention approaches have incorporated normative feedback to correct misperceptions of peer drinking behavior. Little research has focused on the role of the reference group in normative perceptions. The current study sought to examine whether normative perceptions vary based on specificity of the reference group and whether perceived norms for more specific reference-group norms are related to individual drinking behavior. METHOD: Participants were first-year undergraduates (n = 1,276, 58% female) randomly selected from a university list of incoming students. Participants reported personal drinking behavior and perceived descriptive norms for eight reference groups, including typical student; same gender, ethnicity, or residence; and combinations of those reference groups (e.g., same gender and residence). RESULTS: Findings indicated that participants distinguished among different reference groups in estimating descriptive drinking norms. Moreover, results indicated misperceptions in drinking norms were evident at all levels of specificity of the reference group. Additionally, findings showed perceived norms for more specific groups were uniquely related to participants' own drinking. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that providing normative feedback targeting at least one level of specificity to the participant (i.e., beyond what the "typical" student does) may be an important tool in normative feedback interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs. Supplement
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jul 2009


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluating level of specificity of normative referents in relation to personal drinking behavior.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this