If you're under the impression that all your peers are out attending or throwing Project X-esque parties, you've probably fallen victim to a common mentality among teens that, among other things, makes them believe that other teens are partying significantly more than they are. A new study shows that most teenagers have skewed perceptions of how often their peers partake in risky behavior, especially when it comes to "less-cool" groups and how they perceive the behavior of "popular" kids. TL;DR: Everyone can relax on their FOMO.
Sarah Helms and her team from UNC-Chapel Hill started the study by separating students in a suburban public high school into four different groups with the help of students and teachers: "jocks," "populars," "brains," and "burnouts." When they asked all the students to estimate how frequently members in each separate group participated in risky behavior, they found that both jocks and non-jocks thought jocks drank and partied more than they actually did, populars and non-populars thought populars smoked marijuana more than they did actually did, and everyone thought everyone was having more sex than anyone was actually having.
There are some obviously glaring problems with the way this study was carried out, including the criteria that divided people up into some pretty archaic high school stereotypes, but it does point to the interesting possibility that teens are most likely engaging in potentially dangerous behavior because they mistakenly think their peers are. And probably also because of every John Hughes movie ever.