Gender differences in perceptions of binge drinking
The study was motivated by the increasing levels of alcohol consumed by women over the last several decades.
The study surveyed 3, 616 college students at two American universities, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles) and the University of Washington. Participants were between the ages 18 to 25.
The women answered several questions to determine, on average, how many drinks they thought a typical college man would like his female friends to drink at a typical event, as well as the maximum number of drinks they thought the men would like their female friends to drink. They then had to say, on average, how many drinks they thought a woman would have to consume for a guy to consider being friends with her, consider dating her or consider her sexually attractive. The men were asked their actual preferences.
The researchers also asked the women to estimate how much they drank in any given week or month, and how much alcohol they thought the average woman at their university drank in any given week.
The results exposed the gender gap in perceptions of 'appropriate' and attractive levels of drinking. According to the study, 71% of women overestimated the men's actual preference of drinks at any given event. The women overestimated by an average of one-and-a-half drinks. When the researchers looked at the different subgroups, 26 % of women said that men would most likely want to be friends with a woman who drinks five or more drinks and 16 % said that men would be most sexually attracted to a woman who drank that much alcohol. Both estimates were nearly double what the men actually preferred. They also found the women who overestimated the men's preferences were more likely to engage in excessive drinking.
The lead author, Joseph LaBrie, associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University concludes: "Our research suggests women believe men find excessive drinking sexually attractive and appealing, but it appears this is a giant misperception."
"There is a great, and risky, disconnect here between the sexes," said LaBrie. "While not all women may be drinking simply to get a guy's attention, this may help explain why more women are drinking at dangerous levels. We believe universities and other public health organizations could use this information to help curb binge drinking among young women."
LaBrie is doing a follow-up study that looks at what men think women want them to drink to see if this perception has a similar effect on increased risky drinking.