Saturday, July 11, 2009

College students' consumption of alcohol and game theory

An interesting new study suggests that when college students become aware of how much their peers actually drink, they tend to drink less. Social drinking is best described with game theory; drinking is a game because it depends so much on socialization. I hypothesize that most of the utility derived from drinking is due to signaling to peers, not only because drinking alone is stigmatized, but also because drinkers will always blatantly signal and seek status by displaying, discussing, and deliberating about what they drink and how much they drink. Because of psychological tendencies towards conformity, if a person thinks that their peers are drinking more, they will drink more. So, the Nash equilibrium is an artificially high number of drinks, due to incorrect information available to each agent, about the other agents. Each individual agent believes that the other agents are drinking more than they actually are, which drives up the consumption of each individual agent.

I know at UVA there have been campaigns to inform of how much other students actually drink. The campaigns presented the results of surveys about drinking habits that had been administered to students. The existence of these campaigns were probably predicated on the ideas presented in this study.

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