Descriptive and Injunctive Social Norm Overestimation in Hooking Up and Their Role as Predictors of Hook-Up Activity in a College Student Sample
Barriger, Megan, Velez-Blasini, Carlos J., The Journal of Sex Research
Although casual sexual behavior, especially in colleges and universities, can hardly be construed as a recent phenomenon, much of the previous research has primarily focused on events that included intercourse. This emphasis has restricted research to a relatively narrow set of circumstances. Paul, McManus, and Hayes (2000) argued that considering a broader array of non-coital behaviors, such as those encompassed in the definition of a hook-up, might yield a more accurate picture of the casual sexual activities of young adults. Several investigators (Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003; Paul et al., 2000) have described a hook-up as a sexual encounter between strangers or brief acquaintances, lasting usually one night, and which may or may not include coital activity.
Between 77% and 85% of students reported having had engaged in at least one hook-up during the previous year (Lambert et al., 2003; Paul et al., 2000). Of these, between 33% (females) and 48% (males) reported having had intercourse (Paul et al., 2000) when they hooked up. A typical hook-up most often involved anonymous partners and no expectations of future commitment; only 2% of students thought hook-up partners would discuss future contact (Paul & Hayes, 2002). Approximately two-thirds of students reported that a recent hook-up involved only non-coital behaviors (Lambert et al., 2003; Paul et al., 2000; Weaver & Herold, 2000). Hook-ups typically occur in combination with alcohol or drug use (Paul & Hayes, 2002).
A variety of factors may be associated with any given individual's tendency to engage in hooking up. Some likely candidates may well be among those found to be associated with casual sex, such as general risk taking (Kraft & Rise, 1994), alcohol use (Cooper, 2002; Gold, Karmiloff-Smith, Skinner, & Morton, 1992), socio-sexual orientation (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991), sensation-seeking (Kraft & Rise, 1994; Zuckerman, 2002), and self-esteem (Gentzler, 2004; Kilmann, Boland, West, Jonet, & Ramsey, 1993; Weaver & Herold, 2000). Recent research on binge drinking suggests the possibility that within the area of social norms, the construct of pluralistic ignorance may also provide a useful explanatory device for hooking up. As early as the 1950s, Asch (1956) provided evidence of the power of implicit group norms to influence individual behavior. Several theories, including social learning theory, social comparison theory, and problem behavior theory, have provided theoretical evidence in support of the importance of social norms in explaining individual behavior (Larimer, Turner, Mallett, & Geisner, 2004). Kallgren, Reno, and Cialdini (2000) described two different types of social norms: descriptive norms, which refer to what is commonly done in certain situations; and injunctive norms, which define what is commonly accepted or approved. Under certain circumstances, however, both types of norms can be misperceived. In such instances, an individual's estimation of the degree to which a certain action takes place or is considered appropriate may be over- or underestimated. This phenomenon is alternatively labeled pluralistic ignorance or social norm misperception.
Prentice and Miller (1993) demonstrated the existence of pluralistic ignorance in injunctive norms within a sample of college students regarding attitudes toward alcohol consumption on campus. Although there was variability in self-reported personal level of comfort with the level of alcohol use, participants consistently reported that other students felt more comfortable than themselves, demonstrating a clear overestimation of the actual norm. In a test of the importance of social norms in determining individual attitudes, these investigators also demonstrated that among male participants, there was a tendency, over time, to bring personal attitudes about alcohol in line with those perceived, albeit erroneously, to exist in the …
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Publication information: Article title: Descriptive and Injunctive Social Norm Overestimation in Hooking Up and Their Role as Predictors of Hook-Up Activity in a College Student Sample. Contributors: Barriger, Megan - Author, Velez-Blasini, Carlos J. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Sex Research. Volume: 50. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2013. Page number: 84+. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. COPYRIGHT 2013 Gale Group.