Skip to main content
Referent Group Proximity, Social Norms, and Context: Alcohol Use in a Low-Use Environment
Journal of American College Health (2011)
  • J. M. Cox
  • Scott C. Bates, Utah State University
Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between perceived normative use of alcohol and reported consumption in an environment where relatively little alcohol use occurs. Participants: A total of 585 undergraduate students completed an online survey on alcohol use in March 2006. Methods: Participants reported personal alcohol use and perceptions of use by “friends,” “the average student,” and “the average student who drinks.” Results: Due to the large number of students reporting zero alcohol use, zero-inflated negative binomial regression was used to analyze the data. Results showed that perceptions of use and beliefs about the acceptability of use by proximal groups were strongly and positively correlated with personal alcohol use. Perceptions of distal groups were either not correlated or were correlated negatively with personal use. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the use of distal referent groups for a social norms campaign in a low-use environment may have paradoxical effects.
  • Referent Group Proximity,
  • Social Norms,
  • Context,
  • Alcohol Use,
  • Low-Use Environment
Publication Date
January 1, 2011
Citation Information
Cox, J.M. & Bates, S.C. (2011). Referent Group Proximity, Social Norms, and Context: Alcohol Use in a Low-Use Environment. Journal of American College Health, 59(4), 252-259.