Study: Perceived risk, personalities sway drinking habits

Apr 26, 2005

Undergraduate students who believe they have less control over post-drinking agonies such as hangovers and vomiting are more likely to over-drink than students who are able to resist martinis once they're already tipsy, according to psychologists at UW-Madison.

Students with borderline or antisocial personality traits are also less likely to avoid the negative fallout of alcohol use, report the researchers in a paper that appears in the July 2004 Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

With spring marking the start of raucous semester-end college parties around the nation, the UW-Madison work may help refine existing intervention strategies aimed at curbing student alcohol use.

Public health efforts could target specific groups of students based on personality and perceptions of control, for instance, rather than issuing blanket warnings that may resonate with only a few, says Colleen Moore, a UW-Madison psychology professor and co-author of the study.

"Not many studies have looked at the relationship between risk perception, personality type and alcohol use, even though the perception of risk is a key factor in driving self-protective behavior," says Moore.

To examine risk perception levels, lead author Emily Crawford, who at the time of the research was an undergraduate psychology student and Hilldale Fellowship recipient, asked almost 300 undergraduates to rate their personal perceived risk for succumbing to drinking-related outcomes ranging from hangovers to death. Crawford also monitored personality types among survey participants, looking for relationships between certain traits and the propensity to shrug off raging headaches that quickly follow wild party nights.

It still is unclear exactly why alcohol abuse is more prevalent in students who perceive less power to avoid the harmful consequences of over-drinking or who believe that drinking-associated discomforts aren't that severe, says Crawford.

"It is possible that particular aspects of risk perception are risk factors for heavy drinking or substance abuse," says Crawford. Also, heavy drinkers may experience painful post-drinking symptoms so routinely that they may develop a kind of "learned hopelessness" that prevents them from believing they can ever drink less, Crawford adds.

"Interventions that target these students are important, with the goal to increase the confidence and thus the motivation, to reduce drinking," says Crawford.

Source: UW-Madison

Explore further: More than half of biology majors are women, yet gender gaps remain in science classrooms

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Learning from nature

Jun 26, 2012

Using lotus leaves and tea tree oil researchers at Swinburne University of Technology are working to prevent infection and improve outcomes for people requiring medical implants, such as hip replacements.

Scientists use 'crowd funding' to secure research funds

May 22, 2012

When Tara Crawford saw a fishing net wrapped around a young California sea lion’s neck, cutting into its flesh and causing an infection, it reinforced her motivation to help these animals through her ...

Recommended for you

Modern population boom traced to pre-industrial roots

6 hours ago

The foundation of the human population explosion, commonly attributed to a sudden surge in industrialization and public health during the 18th and 19th centuries, was actually laid as far back as 2,000 years ...

Researcher looks at the future of higher education

6 hours ago

Most forecasts about the future of higher education have focused on how the institutions themselves will be affected – including the possibility of less demand for classes on campus and fewer tenured faculty members as ...

Now we know why it's so hard to deceive children

8 hours ago

Daily interactions require bargaining, be it for food, money or even making plans. These situations inevitably lead to a conflict of interest as both parties seek to maximise their gains. To deal with them, ...

User comments : 0