Which of the following perceptions influence why and how people drink?

A) How much we think others are drinking.

B) How often we think others are drinking.

C) What we think we will or won’t get from drinking.

D) All of the above.

The correct answer is D: All of the above.


There are several reasons why people choose to drink alcoholic beverages. There are at least three perceptions people have that influence how they drink and why they drink.

We are influenced by how much we perceive or think that other people around us drink and how often we think they drink. We also consider how drinking will or won’t benefit us.

Drinking is often a social activity which means a person is often influenced by their peer group. In other words, if your friends decide to drink then there is a good chance you will too. It is part of the whole social experience.

A further reason that people choose to drink alcohol is to cope with stresses in their life. Alcoholic beverages can provide a way to escape from the harsh realities and everyday stresses that an individual may encounter in their daily lives.

The problem is that people may become dependent on alcohol though, which over the long term has a bad effect on health.

Social norms and misperceptions play a big role in how much and how often people tend to drink. A great deal of research has shown that misperception and where a person drinks influences drinking patterns.

Perception and drinking

Our perception of the world is not always very accurate. Much of our behavior is also often influenced by what we perceive about other people. In fact, how much alcohol we drink is often related to how much we think other individuals are drinking.

Researchers have found that only about 19% of people accurately estimate how much others drink. An astounding 45.5% of individuals actually overestimate the number of alcoholic beverages consumed by other people.

This, in turn, led these individuals to consume more alcohol than those who didn’t overestimate the alcoholic intake of others. Studies have found that this flawed perception can lead people to consume double the amount of alcohol compared with people who don’t have this perception.

This overestimation of drinking is particularly prevalent among college students, and especially for students of the same sex at fraternity and sorority parties.

Individuals are not only influenced by how much they assume other people drink, but also how often they perceive others drink. This means that a person may erroneously think that others are consuming alcohol more often than they actually are.

This result was found when surveying college students and asking them about the use of alcohol and drugs by their peers. Students in college seem to have normative misperceptions about alcohol use among their peers.

Location and drinking

Research has shown that where a person chooses to drink also has a strong influence on how much alcohol they are likely to consume.

The increased consumption of alcohol among students at college was also found to be somewhat higher when they attended off-campus parties compared with on-campus parties.

People drinking in public places such as bars have also been found to take in a lot more alcohol than people who drink privately at home. Such individuals were also more likely to show aggression and engage in risky behaviors such as drunk driving.

What was also found in studies done on college students was that a student was more likely to drink to intoxication if several people were drinking too much.

The presence of drinking games and other illegal drugs also added to the likelihood of students drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Reasons people drink

There are two main reasons why people drink alcoholic beverages. The first reason they drink is to fit in with a social group and as part of a social activity. In fact, men and women may feel pressure to conform and choose to drink if their peers do.

The other reason many individuals choose to consume alcohol is to cope with the stresses of daily life. The alcoholic substance has the effect of providing a means of escaping present problems and can help people to feel more relaxed.

However, over the long term, people may become dependent on alcohol leading to alcoholism and all its related problems for individuals and for society.

Dangers of alcohol abuse

Alcohol abuse can lead to major health and societal problems. Drunk drivers alone kill thousands of people each year. The issue of binge drinking is also of great concern, particularly on college campuses where young adults may drink too much too quickly.

This can lead to death from alcohol poisoning as the liver can only detoxify alcohol at a certain rate so if you drink too much at once, you can overwhelm your body.

Binge drinking is most common among young people and has been a particular problem during hazing activities of various fraternities on college campuses.

Chronic long-term alcohol addiction and abuse cause many health concerns including various types of liver disease such as cirrhosis and liver cancer and cancers in other regions of the body. It also can lead to problems with the brain and potentially increase your risk of dementia.


  1. HW Perkins, PW Meilman, JS Leichliter, JR Cashin (1999). Misperceptions of the norms for the frequency of alcohol and other drug use on college campuses. Journal of American College Health.
  2. A Abbey, MJ Smith, RO Scott  (1993). The relationship between reasons for drinking alcohol and alcohol consumption: An interactional approach. Addictive behaviors.
  3. MA Lewis, DM Litt, JA Blayney, TW Lostutter, H Granat (2011). They drink how much and where? Normative perceptions by drinking contexts and their association to college students’ alcohol consumption. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
  4. N Bertholet, J Gaume, M Faouzi, JB Daeppen, G Gmel (2010). Perception of the amount of drinking by others in a sample of 20-year-old men: the more I think you drink, the more I drink. Alcohol and Alcoholism.
  5. JD Clapp, MB Reed, MR Holmes, JE Lange, RB Voas (2006). Drunk in public, drunk in private: the relationship between college students, drinking environments and alcohol consumption. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.


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