Examining the Role of Abstainer Prototype Favorability as a Mediator of the Abstainer-Norms-Drinking-Behavior Relationship

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Past research has indicated that peer influence is associated with risky health behaviors, such as alcohol and other substance use (e.g., Maxwell, 2002; Santor, Messervey, and Kusumakar, 2000). Specifically, research has indicated that believing that more of one's peers use alcohol predicts more favorable prototypes (risk images) of the typical alcohol user (Litt and Stock, 2011; Teunissen et al., 2014). However, it is unclear if this same relationship would hold when considering abstainer (i.e., people who do not use alcohol) cognitions. The primary goal of the present study was to determine whether normative perceptions of peer abstinence from alcohol predict alcohol consumption and whether this relationship is mediated by abstainer prototypes. Results from 2,095 college students (42% male) indicated that the relation between abstainer norms and drinking behavior was mediated by abstainer prototypes such that believing that more peers abstained from alcohol use predicted more favorable prototypes of the typical alcohol abstainer, which in turn predicted lower alcohol use. Results from this study provide important first steps to delineating the relationship between abstainer cognitions and alcohol use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-472
Number of pages6
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2015



  • Alcohol
  • abstainer norms
  • abstainer prototypes
  • prototype willingness model
  • social norms

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