To consider, at a conceptual level, the factors that inform perceptions of peer deviance and subsequently, at an empirical level, the extent to which survey information from high school students confirms whether these elements shape perceptions of friends’ drinking. This study also offers an alternative way to document projection bias.
249 public high school students completed a survey about what factors inform their perceptions of friends’ drinking behavior. Subjects also responded to several vignettes in order to assess their general tendency to engage in projection.
Subjects rely on both observed behavior and various forms of communication when forming perceptions of friends’ drinking, though there is notable variation across these elements. When using hypothetical vignettes, results suggest projection bias is significantly diminished as subjects are provided with more information about a hypothetical peer.
Adolescents appear to rely on a wide range of information when forming perceptions about friends’ drinking behavior. Although we did document a tendency to engage in projection when subjects had minimal information about a peer, the fragility of this tendency questions whether perceptual measures are inherently contaminated.