"Your perceptions of what is typical is exaggerated in respect to reality, but those perceptions guide your own behavior," Neighbors said. "So, if you're thinking about how much you're going to drink, you're influenced by other people."
Neighbors' nearly $3 million alcohol study partners with Loyola Marymount University and the University of Washington to determine the influence other people have on a person's drinking habit. The series of studies takes place over fiveyears and will involve more than 10,000 students from those diverse campuses. They'll all be surveyed about their perception of their own drinking habits and those of others. They'll also be asked about how they identify with their peers.
The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
"I expect we will find that we can do a better job of using social-norms-based interventions, if we take into account who people care about," Neighbors said.
It is a principle that guides a second study on gambling. Funded by the National Council on Problem Gaming, this study targets college students who have issues withgambling. This two-year study will screen more than 20,000 students and survey them about their gambling habits. (A problem gambler is defined as one who regularly: lied about gambling/spent money they didn't have/gambled more than they intended/borrowed money to gamble/had gambling impact their studies.)
Neighbors hopes the studies can be used to create new intervention policies on college campuses.
"This is the cutting edge of what people are doing in figuring out how to resolve some entrenched issues in college campuses," he said. "It's been here for years and years and years. Our hope is that this approach might start to make a dent in the culture ofcollege drinking and gambling, because that's really what it's going to take."
Clayton Neighbors is part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.
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