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Pamela M. Propsom

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Why Psychology?

The question is, why not? Psychology is incredibly interesting and relates to almost every aspect of life.

My Research Interests

i. Social Norming and Alcohol Use

For the past 7 years a student research group (SOAR: Student Organized Alcohol Research) and I have been conducting a survey of DePauw student alcohol attitudes, perceptions and behaviors. We find that students are often inaccurate about their peers’ attitudes and behaviors, and this might contribute to increased perceived pressure to drink.  The social norming perspective regarding alcohol use suggests that if we provide students with more accurate information about other students’ behaviors (which indicates that student drinking is often more modest and responsible than we anticipate), they might decrease their own risky drinking.

Student Alcohol Survey

We have developed and administered an alcohol survey every year for the past 7 years, gathering data from over 7500 DePauw students.  After analyzing the data, we report it back to the students in posters (examples on this page), newspaper ads, and on promotional items, attempting to correct alcohol-related misperceptions. Over time we’ve found that student estimates of their peers’ alcohol use have become more accurate, but this has not been accompanied by the expected decrease in alcohol use. This has led SOAR to discuss new directions for alcohol research at DePauw. SOAR’s activities were crucial in our application for and awarding of a $28,000 grant from the NCAA for alcohol education with student-athletes.

Faculty/Staff Alcohol Attitudes and Behaviors

Although there is a great deal of published research on students and drinking, there is little information about faculty and staff drinking attitudes and behaviors, and their perceptions of student alcohol consumption. Our research group surveyed DePauw faculty and staff about their own alcohol behaviors and attitudes, and their perceptions of DePauw students’ drinking. We found that faculty and staff were correct in some of their perceptions, but there were also a number of misperceptions; for example, they fail to recognize some of the factors related to increased alcohol consumption (i.e., athletic status, ethnicity, gender). In addition, many overestimated the “liberalness” of DePauw student attitudes regarding drinking, which is consistent with the social norming perspective. Our SOAR group presented this work at the 2012 MPA Annual Meeting in Chicago (see poster).