Friday, December 11, 2015

Research Blog #10: Final Abstract, Bibliography, & Link



        College alcohol abuse is an epidemic that isn’t showing signs of slowing down. Lack of results produced by government and academic policies shows that the problem may stem from culture rather than laws. One possible solution is to engage the problem through the lenses of social norms theory. Theoretically, social norms theory should effectively combat college alcohol abuse by changing student misperceptions of peer alcohol consumption to reflect reality. Social norms theory has been implemented in several government-run programs as an alternative to traditional forms of prevention. Ways that social norms theory have already been applied to college drinking include media campaigns and monitored responsible drinking sessions hosted by academic institutions.


"Alcohol Policy - Rutgers University Residence Life." Rutgers University Residence Life. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <>.
Anonymous Rutgers Students. "Rutgers Responsible Drinking Happy Hour." Interview by Angelo D. Ragusa. 1 Dec. 2015.
Berkowitz, Alan D. "The Social Norms Approach: Theory, Research, and Annotated Bibliography." (n.d.): n. pag. Aug. 2004. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. <>.
Champion, Denisha A., Todd F. Lewis, and Jane E. Myers. "College Student Alcohol Use And Abuse: Social Norms, Health Beliefs, And Selected Socio-Demographic Variables As Explanatory Factors."Journal Of Alcohol & Drug Education 59.1 (2015): 57-82 26p. CINAHL with Full Text. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <>
"College Drinking." College Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <>.
"Fact Sheets - Binge Drinking." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <>.
Gladwell, Malcolm. "Drinking Games." Malcolm Gladwell. N.p., 15 Feb. 2010. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <>.
Grube, Joel W. "Alcohol in the Media: Drinking Portrayals, Alcohol Advertising, and Alcohol Consumption Among Youth." The National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2004. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <>.
Rockefeller, John D., Jr. Letter to Nicholas Murray Butler. 6 June 1932. MS. 26 Broadway, New York City, New York. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <>
"RU SURE." RU Sure - Center for Communication and Health Issues. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <>.
Wagenaar, Alexander, and Traci Toomey. "Effects of Minimum Drinking Age Laws: Review and Analyses of the Literature from 1960 to 2000."Effects of Minimum Drinking Age Laws. 3 Sept. 2005. Web. 20 Oct. 2015. <>.
Wechsler, Henry, George W. Dowdall, Gretchen Maenner, Jeana Gledhill-Hoyt, and Hang Lee. "Changes in Binge Drinking and Related Problems Among American College Students Between 1993 and 1997." Journal of American College Health 47.2 (1998): 66. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <>.

Research Blog #9: Argument and Counter-Argument

My research has led me to the conclusion that the culture surrounding college drinking is reinforcing dangerous drinking patterns among college students. Due to a wide variety of factors including heavy media influences, dangerous drinking behaviors such as binge drinking and alcohol crowdsourcing is abundant on college campuses. In order to change the culture of college drinking, one theory that I believe may be successful in practice is social norms theory.

Social norms theory makes two primary assumptions: people (college students in this case) tend to alter their behaviors based on their perceptions of their society’s norms and that frequently these perceptions are incorrect (Berkowitz, 5). When applied to the problem of college drinking, the theory suggests that college students overestimate the alcohol consumption of their peers and will in turn consume more to mirror their perceptions of the societal norm. In theory, changing the misperceptions that college students have about their peers should lead to a significant reduction in the amount of alcohol that college students consume. In practice, social norms theory is used in media campaigns all over college campuses that reinforce the notion that most college students are not heavy drinkers, such as in RU Sure's media campaign at Rutgers University.

While a social norms approach sounds good in theory, there does exist opposition to the theory. The first is that in order for the theory to work, a student must overestimate the alcohol use of his or her peers. Should this not be the case, the theory does not fit properly. Another concern with the use of social norms theory is that the students have to buy into the message that the academic institutions are sending. Some students may be untrustworthy of these types of tactics and think of them as ways that an authoritative body is trying to ruin their fun college experiences. 

Research Blog #8: Interview

I interviewed several Rutgers students to gather information as to why they did not attend the Rutgers Responsible Drinking Happy Hour. My original plan was to interview a student on their experiences with attending the event, but I was unable to find anyone who had actually gone. This program is Rutgers' attempt to engage the problem of underage college drinking with social norms theory.

The most prevalent reason as to why students told me that did not attend the responsible drinking event was that it is only open to students age 21 and older. This restriction, while necessary to stay within the bounds of federal law, restricts roughly 75% of the undergraduate student body. Without even being able to go to these events, the responsible drinking program has 0 effect on the younger college students who need them the most.

Another factor in why students over the age of 21 said that they were reluctant to attend was that the environment was uncomfortable. College students, especially younger undergraduates, flock to fraternity parties and house parties like seagulls to your sandwich on the beach. These parties are where these students feel most comfortable drinking, as it provides a space where everyone else around them is either an anonymous face or is participating in drinking in the same way as them. In contrast, the Rutgers Responsible Drinking Happy Hour is filled with professors and other faculty watching the students every move. On top of that, students felt that they were being "babied" by only being restricted to 1 drink per hour, regardless of the person's personal alcohol tolerance.

This interview showed me the full extent of the problems that the Rutgers program presents. To me, it seems as though the program, while well intentioned, serves basically no purpose. The main demographic that should be targeted, mainly freshman/sophomore students, are completely barred from partaking, leaving them to find alcohol elsewhere, mainly in unregulated environments like fraternity parties.

Research Blog #7: My Case

I chose not to use a specific court case in my research paper, as there were none related specifically to the theoretical framework that I chose to use in my paper. Instead, I chose to use Malcolm Gladwell's analysis of distinct groups of people and their drinking behaviors to illustrate how culture can be the underlying factor in alcohol use and behavioral patterns.

The first group of people that Gladwell talks about is the Camba of Bolivia. The Camba would go on “weekly benders (AKA: drinking parties) with [180-proof] alcohol”. Shockingly, Heath describes the Camba as having “no social arguments, no disputes, no sexual aggression, no verbal aggression. There was pleasant conversation or silence” (Gladwell). This is an interesting discovery because it shows that despite near dangerous amounts of drinking, the Camba do not show any type of behavioral changes that are prevalent among American college students who drink. He contrasts the Camba to the students of Brown University, who, after consuming beer turn into a "hormonal frenzy on Friday nights" (Gladwell). 

Next, Gladwell compares the drinking habits of Italian immigrants and Irish immigrants in New Haven. The two groups, both of which were subjected to the same alcohol laws and had similar thirsts for alcoholic beverages, differed drastically in their rates of alcoholism. Despite being daily drinkers, the Italian immigrants showed much lower rates of alcoholism and behavioral changes than the Irish immigrants (Gladwell).

The common factor that ties the two groups together is that they both consume alcohol only in specific, structured contexts. The Camba, though excessive drinkers, only do so in the context of their village rituals. The Italians, though daily drinkers, only do so in moderation and once a day with a meal. This is a direct contrast to the Brown University students who drink in an unregulated and unstructured environment. As such, their behaviors shift in a manner that corresponds directly to the environment in which they drink. Drinking in dark, loud, wild, and unregulated environments brings out shifts in personality like increased aggression and increase in sexual promiscuity.

Literature Review #5: The social norms approach: Theory, research and annotated bibliography

Berkowitz, Alan D. "The social norms approach: Theory, research and annotated bibliography." Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention. US Department of Education (2004).

Alan Berkowitz provides an overview of the social norms approach that he developed and how it relates to college drinking. His findings showed that during his study, college students would regularly overestimate the alcohol consumption of their peers and the extent to which their peers were supportive of drinking behaviors. He found that the students estimations of their peers had a direct relationship to the amount that person drank. He also describes several key terms that are used to interpret social norms and the misconceptions behind them.

Berkowitz is the creator of the social norms approach, along with his partner H.W. Perkins. Berkowitz is the go-to source for all information pertaining to his social norms theory and any information from his resources are directly from the point of view of the man who invented it.

Key Terms-

Pluralistic Ignorance: "occurs when a majority of individuals falsely assume that most of their peers behave or think differently from them when in fact their attitudes and/or behavior are similar" (Berkowitz, 7)

False Consensus- "the incorrect belief that others are like one-self when in fact they are not" (Berkowitz, 7)

False Uniqueness- "occurs when individuals who are in the minority assume that the difference between themselves and others is greater than is actually the case" (Berkowitz, 8)

"When drug prevention emphasizes problem behavior without acknowledging the actual healthy norm, it may foster the erroneous belief that drinking problems are worse than is actually the case and inadvertently contribute to the problem it is trying to solve" (Berkowitz, 5). 

“...encourages individuals to suppress healthy attitudes and behaviors that are falsely thought to be non-conforming and to provide encouragement to engage in the unhealthy behaviors that are seen incorrectly as normative" (Berkowitz, 7)

This study provides the backbone and the theoretical framework to my entire argument. I will be engaging the problem of college drinking through the lenses of social norms theory and Berkowitz's study will prove to be invaluable in making my argument.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Literature Review #4: College Student Alcohol Use and Abuse

Champion, Denisha A., PhD, Todd F. Lewis, PhD, and Jane E. Myers, PhD. "College Student Alcohol Use and Abuse: Social Norms, Health Beliefs, and Selected Socio-Demographic Variables as Explanatory Factors."Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education (2015): 57-72. 1 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.

This paper discusses why, despite increased focus on college alcohol consumption by government agencies and universities, college drinking remains at a consistent level across two decades. The paper goes on to discuss the dangerous activities students engage in, such as binge drinking, and how the widely used "Social Norms Theory" affects college drinking. For example, the theory outlines that the norms tied to those with whom a person is close, such as a best friend, tend to have the strongest effects. Social norms theory has been studied in college drinking contexts before. For example, "the more alcohol students perceive (often inaccurately) others to drink, the more they drink themselves" (Berkowitz, 2004).

Denisha Champion is a PhD who works as a the Assistant Director of Programming and Prevention for Wake Forrest University. Todd F. Lewis has a PhD in Counselling Education and Supervision and has a research interest in substance abuse and risk-taking behavior. 

Key Terms:

HBM- health belief model. "a theory developed by social psychologists to understand the under-utilization of preventative screenings and approaches that could serve to improve the health of populations" (60)

Value-Expectancy Theory- "deal with the influence of individual values and expectations on behavior and/or the development of these values and expectations” (Hays, 1985, p.379)

AUDIT- Alcohol Use Disorders Test. "...a 10-item assessment developed by several researchers for the World Health Organization (WHO). The purpose of the AUDIT is listed as “a screening procedure to identify persons whose alcohol consumption has become hazardous or harmful to their health” (Plake & 64 COLLEGE STUDENT ALCOHOL USE AND ABUSE Impara, 2001, p.51) " (63-64)

"However, mistrust of information in campaigns, including students finding media messages as deceptive tactics to curb their fun college experience, as well as being intentionally misleading have all been barriers to successful outcomes" (60)

"The consequences of drinking behavior are varied, serious, damaging, and far-reaching. They encompass areas such as mental and emotional well-being, academic performance, relationships between the local community and campus, negative physiological effects, vandalism, property damage, and sexual assault" (58)

"In the second hypothesis we predicted that social norms and health beliefs variables would account for a larger portion of the variance in drinking behavior among students than socio-demographic variables...this was indeed found to be the case...this finding indicates that the pull students feel to drink based on how their peers are drinking, coupled with personal health beliefs about susceptibility, severity, benefits, and barriers related to alcohol consumption far outweigh the demographic attributes often associated with drinking behavior." (68)

This scientific study is valuable to my research paper because my paper will discuss in depth the impact of social norms on college drinking culture. This paper proves that social norms theory could possibly be used to describe why drinking is so disproportionately prevalent in college atmospheres.

Literature Review #3: How College Students Conceptualize and Practice Responsible Drinking

Barry, Adam, and Patricia Goodson. "How College Students Conceptualize and Practice Responsible Drinking." Journal of American College Health VACH J. of Am. Coll. Hlth. 59.4 (2011): 304-12. Web. 29 Nov. 2015.

This scientific study is about what college students believe about drinking responsibly. The study surveyed over 700 students for the quantitative data and 13 participants for the qualitative data. The study found that students generally associated 7 different themes with responsible alcohol consumption, including refraining from drinking and driving, moderating how often one drinks, and monitoring how much alcohol one consumes.

Adam E. Barry PhD is a professor at Texas A&M who has been published several times in the Journal of American College Health, many times for articles based on a study of alcohol's effects. 

Key Terms:

Standard Drink- 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits

CHORDS- CHaracteristic Of Responsible Drinking Survey. A behavioral beliefs scale used to assign a value to the student responses in the survey. The scale ranged from 1-5, 1 meaning not important to do and 5 being something that one must always do when drinking.

BAC- Blood Alcohol Content

"...males were found to believe that these responsible drinking behaviors should occur with less frequency, when compared to their female counterparts" (309)

"We argue that the construct of responsible drinking requires its own, exclusive focus, due to its prevalence in alcohol advertising and public health research." (311)

"participants offered numerous different interpretations of what constituted one’s alcohol-related limit. For instance, notions of an alcohol limit ranged from staying in control of one’s self to remaining coherent. Some participants felt knowing one’s limit encompassed preventing illness/sickness due to consuming alcohol: “Throwing up is too much, but buzzing is alright.”" (307)

The value that I see in this study is that it provides a first-hand look into the minds of college drinkers. In order for one to grasp the concept of the culture of college drinking, one must peek into the minds of the students who create and perpetuate the culture.