Monday, May 26, 2008

Information about my project!

Hey all,
Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog and find out a little more about my research project. I'll just write a bit to start out my blogging.

At first, I was tad intimidated when i found out that my fellow CBR recipients were traveling far and wide to explore the depths of other cultures and finding themselves in the perils that come with traveling abroad. I knew that i was going to be spending my summers in Chapel Hill. However, I soon realized that it takes all kinds of people to make the world go around. Indeed, it takes all kinds of researchers to find solutions to many of the problems that we find ourself facing as humanity today.

One of the most salient problems comes in the form of alcohol use. There are only a handful of people that still recall the days when selling alcohol was illegal. Prohibition once was the law of the land in the United States. From 1920-1933 in the United States, the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption was banned. Faced with pressure from the Great Depression, law makers repealed this amendment in order to stimulate revenue for the country.

It is without a doubt today that alcohol sales make up for a large part of our economy. However, this revenue does not come without downfalls. In fact, there is probably little argument that the abuse of alcohol is a widespread problem. I want you to try this exercise. Think for a second about people that you may know that are affected by alcohol abuse. It may very well be yourself. If not you directly, I bet that if you think hard enough, you will think of people that are affected. It could be a belligerent dad, an outcast teen, a single mother--the list goes on. The reality is, alcohol is all around us.

If you haven't had to face alcohol before, you must not be a college student. Before setting foot onto a college campus, potential budding scholars are inundated with the message of alcohol use. In fact, turn no further than the Hollywood popular media. Ask almost anyone what the main plot of the movie Animal House is, and they will respond resolutely with "alcohol." Indeed, before arriving to campus my first day as a Tarheel, I knew that I was going to be facing the pressures of alcohol. I knew that I didn't have to drink to make friends, but I found that many of my fellow first year students thought this was the case. In fact, almost my entire hall had bought into the myth that underage binge drinking was the way to ensure companionship in college.

By my 21st birthday, I came to realize that alcohol abuse was something that was very important to me. I couldn't shake the feeling that when I saw people being overly drunk in public, they were risking their very lives. In fact, from Thursday Night to Sunday night in Chapel Hill, many students engage in a game that they don't even realize they are playing. They are playing roulette. They are trading in their health and safety for a good buzz or a temporary escape from their problems. Alcohol abuse is salient and serious.

Something must be done to dispel the myth that binge drinking is the normal behavior on college campus. Indeed, the average Carolina student (age 21+) only drink 4 beverages in a single night. Those that go above and beyond this number are part of the minority. Why then, is there the unnecessary pressure to engage in drinking to the point of blackout or sickness? It is a phenomena known as false consensus effects.

False consensus suggests that if a person engages in particular behavior, he or she is likely to think that a lot more people engage in that same behavior. In other words, if a student engages in binge drinking (which is defined as 4 or more drinks in a short time for females and 5 or more drinks in a short amount of time for males), then that student likely thinks that a lot more people are engaging in this behavior as well. It is this process that leads to the group consensus that everyone is going to be drinking to the point of getting drunk.

My research sets out to help understand this process. As a result, i will be measuring the incoming first year students attitudes regarding alcohol use. I will be gathering information as these students arrive on campus for their orientation session. Every student (ca. 4,000) will receive my survey (thanks to the Office of the Dean of Students for helping me print all these surveys). It is completely voluntary, and no one will ever be forced to complete the survey. Throughout the summer, i will update this blog with ongoing findings. I hope that you will check back regularly as i set out to help fight a crisis that this community is facing. We must work as a community of achieving Tarheels to fight the problem of alcohol abuse on our campus.

Any correspondence with me may be sent to


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