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Ignoring Norms with a Little Help from my Friends: Social Support Reduces Normative Influence on Drinking Behavior

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Alcohol norms are strong predictors of drinking. However, the extent to which norms influence behavior depends on how closely people attend to them; people are more likely to attend to norms when their affiliation needs are unfulfilled by members of their social networks (Cullum, O'Grady, & Tennen, 2011). Therefore, we predicted that Perceived Social Support (PSS) would moderate the relationship between norms and drinking such that people with low levels of PSS would be more motivated to attend to norms. College students (N = 498) completed measures of PSS and peer alcohol norms and then reported on their drinking behavior daily for 30 days. As predicted, we found when PSS was low, student drinking was strongly influenced by peer norms, but there was no relationship between norms and drinking when PSS was high. Findings suggest that when affiliation needs are high, norms are more influential on drinking behavior.