Who is the typical college student? Implications for personalized normative feedback interventions

Melissa A. Lewis, Clayton Neighbors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Personalized normative feedback approaches focus on correcting overestimated peer drinking norms in order to reduce problematic drinking among college students. Generally, personalized normative feedback utilizes the "typical college student" as a normative referent. Prior research has found these interventions to be less effective for women and has suggested the implementation of the typical student referent as one possible explanation. The current research explored how the typical college student is perceived when estimating peer drinking norms. Participants included 182 (98 women, 84 men) students who reported consuming 5/4 or more drinks for men/women on at least one occasion in the previous month. Participants completed a battery of questionnaires on computers located in small private rooms assessing their drinking behavior, perceptions of "typical student" drinking behavior, and demographics of the perceived "typical college student." Overall, the majority of students perceived the typical student to be male. More specifically, the vast majority of men and about half of women perceived the typical student as male when estimating drinking norms. These findings provide empirical corroboration for previous researchers' suggestions that both men and women tend to think of the typical college student as male when estimating peer drinking norms. Results are discussed in terms of implications for personalized normative feedback interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2120-2126
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Alcohol
  • Gender
  • Social norms


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