College women who like to knock back drinks with their male counterparts may be out of luck when it comes to their love lives.
That's because college guys aren't as crazy about heavy drinkers as one might think.
In fact, college women tend to overestimate the degree of alcohol consumption that college men find attractive in female friends and partners, according to findings from a Web-based survey.
College women may drink "in pursuit of intimate relationships and positive attention from male peers," note Dr. Joseph LaBrie, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, and colleagues, in their report in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
The results of their survey indicate that 26 percent of college women think men most likely prefer a woman who consumes 5 or more alcoholic drinks on a single occasion, and nearly 17 percent of women felt a man would be sexually attracted to a woman who drinks at the same level as him.
Yet, LaBrie and colleagues report, both of these percentages "are nearly double men's actual preferences for that behavior."
"These perceptions — or misperceptions, since men are reporting actually being attracted to and wanting women to drink less — are related to overdrinking and alcohol consequences in college women," LaBrie told Reuters Health.
The investigators compiled survey data from 3616 heterosexual college students, 62 percent female, who were 18 to 25 years old.
The female students reported how many drinks on average, and the maximum number of drinks, they thought their male counterparts would like their female friends, dates, or sexual partners to consume during a typical drinking occasion. They also noted whether or not they thought men felt sexually attracted to a certain level of drinking.
The male students indicated their actual preferences regarding drinking levels of female friends, dates, or sexual partners in similarly worded questions.
Overall, 74 and 71 percent of female students overestimated the maximum number of and per-occasion drinks male students preferred their female companions to drink.
Moreover, women's misperceptions and actual drinking behaviors remained strongly and independently related when the researchers allowed for other factors associated with alcohol consumption such as sorority membership, perceived gender-specific drinking norms, and demographics.
"There is a great, and risky, disconnect between the sexes," LaBrie summed up in a press release. "While not all women may be drinking simply to get a guy's attention, this may help explain why women are drinking at dangerous levels."
He expressed the hope that this information might help colleges design programs to curb binge drinking among young women.
SOURCE: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, March 2009.