Students' Estimates of the Prevalence of Drug Use: Evidence for a False Consensus Effect

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False consensus, or the tendency to overestimate the extent to which others share one's own attitudes and behaviors, was investigated in a study of 348 university students classified as non-drug users, cannabis-only users, or amphetamine+cannabis users. Participants estimated the prevalence of cannabis and amphetamine use among students. Cannabis and amphetamine users made significantly higher estimates of cannabis use among students than did nonusers, whereas amphetamine users gave significantly higher estimates of amphetamine use than nonusers and cannabis-only users. Correlations between estimates of use among friends and other students were significantly positive for both drugs. The results suggest that students are motivated to overestimate the commonality of their own position on drug use and that their estimates may also be influenced by selective exposure.

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