Date of Award

Winter 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

James M. Henson

Committee Member

Valerian J. Derlaga

Committee Member

Michelle L. Kelley

Committee Member

James A. nneff


Problematic drinking is a serious public health concern on college campuses in the United States. College students most frequently report drinking for social reasons, and perceptions of peers' drinking, or perceived drinking norms, are among the most consistent, robust predictors of college student drinking. Therefore, norm-based interventions have risen to prominence in the attempt to reduce the harm caused by college student alcohol use. However, the efficacy of these interventions may be obscured by cognitive bias. Specifically, providing information regarding the drinking norm may "anchor" individuals' estimates of their own behavior. Using samples of college student drinkers, two studies were conducted to examine whether normative feedback serves as an anchor and biases one's report of their behavior (norms as anchor hypothesis). In addition, the boundary conditions of this effect were examined. Specifically, it was examined whether the anchoring effect is attenuated or eliminated when participants are forewarned about the anchoring effect or when controlling for social desirability bias. Contrary to hypotheses, a robust anchoring effect was not found in Study 1 or Study 2. Given the lack of clarity provided by null results, these findings are interpreted cautiously. Methodological limitations are discussed in terms of how improvements can be made for future research and what the results signify for norm-based interventions.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).