Student Research Projects

The Effects of Social Norm Perception on Perceived Sexual Deviancy

Student Randy Rice, ‘13
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Psychology
Course PSYCH 480: Original Research Project in Psychology


This study examined whether there are discrepancies between the perceived and the self-reported amount of sexual activity on campus, that is, whether students perceive that their peers are engaging in a great deal of sexual activity but that they themselves are not. Also, this study examined whether this discrepancy increases with each year on the campus; that is, whether seniors are more likely to think that others are engaging in more activity than they are. Previous studies on social norms on campus have typically examined binge drinking specifically. In addition, previous work examining social norm misperception when it comes to sexual behavior has not focused exclusively on this topic. However, many studies have found both that there is risky sexual behavior on college campuses and that college students often have casual attitudes about sexuality, perhaps because of the perception that engaging in frequent sexual activity is perceived as the social norm. Findings of the current study showed that there was a significant difference between perceived
sexual activity and self-reported engagement in sexual activity on campus but that this difference in perceived versus actual sexual activity did not differ for students who were seniors versus those who were freshmen.