Date of Award

Spring 4-21-2011

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Psychological Science

Department Chair or Program Director

Steckler, Debra

First Advisor

Erchull, Mindy J.

Second Advisor

Liss, Miriam

Third Advisor

Kilmartin, Christopher

Major or Concentration



Descriptive and injunctive norms have been shown to influence people’s perceptions of what actions are considered appropriate. Social norms research with sexual behaviors has shown that women perceived other women to be highly sexually active when, in reality, these norms were not accurate. We anticipated the same pattern of misperceptions and wanted to see if perceived number of partners and permissive attitudes of best friends and the typical freshman could predict women’s own number of partners controlling for their own attitudes. Participants included 156 heterosexual, freshman women from a liberal arts university. We found that women perceived their friends and the typical freshmen woman to have more sexual partners and be more comfortable participating in various sexual activities than was true of themselves. We also found that perceptions of others’ sexual attitudes and behaviors could predict the number of participants’ sexual partners above and beyond their own sexually permissive attitudes.

Included in

Psychology Commons