A Replication and Extension of a Study of Peer Impacts on Attitudes and Drinking Behavior

How do peers influence social attitudes and behaviors?

To examine this question, the researchers are capitalizing on a natural experiment in which a significant portion of freshman at a large public university in the southeast are assigned roommates at random. The study, a replication and extension of a prior project, is being conducted at a school with a large, racially and socioeconomically diverse student body to more fully examine how college roommates affect each other’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors and whether certain genetic factors moderate the influence of particular pairings. A major extension in the study is the introduction of a genetic analysis of binge drinking; the researchers will study the influence of genes and environment, with the environment being randomly assigned. The team uses data on incoming freshman collected by the university to establish a baseline, web-based surveys for the outcome data, and DNA samples to determine genetic predispositions. The main sample consists of 3,000 students (DNA samples will be collected from only 2,000 students.)