82 Peer Pressure Inoculation

Based on research by William McGuire (1961) and Perry, Cheryl et al., (1980). Psychology Science Minute written by the Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D..

Have Your Children Had Their Anti-Smoking Shots? Social psychologist William McGuire asked if it might be possible to give people an “inoculation” to resist attacks on their beliefs by giving them practice at resisting and refuting other’s persuasive arguments.

Smoking seemed like an ideal problem to study because children below the age of 10 almost always report negative attitudes about smoking. However, in the face of peer pressure to be cool, many of these same children become smokers during middle to late adolescence.

Cheryl Perry and colleagues (1980), studied whether high school students could inoculate junior high schools students against smoking by having the younger kids role-play the kind of situations they might actually face with a peer who pressured them to try a cigarette. For example, when a role-playing peer called a student “chicken” for not being willing to try an imaginary cigarette, the student practiced answers such as “I’d be a real chicken if I smoked just to impress you.” The kids inoculated in this way were about half as likely to become smokers, compared to kids in a very similar school who did not receive this special intervention.

Parents and teachers, role-play with children ways to not give in to peer pressure!

Cited Research:

McGuire, W. J. (1961). Resistance to persuasion conferred by active and passive prior refutation of the same and alternative counterarguments. Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology, Vol. 63, pp. 326-332.

Perry, C. L., Killen, J., Slinkard, L. A., & McAlister, A. L. (1980). Peer teaching and smoking prevention among junior high students. Adolescence, Vol. 15, pp. 277-281.

For more details see:

American Psychological Association, January 16, 2004


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