Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Newman, Leonard S.


attitudes, college students, mental health services, pluralistic ignorance

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychiatry and Psychology


Students underutilize mental health services on college campuses in the United States. More research is needed to fully understand barriers to service use among this at-risk population and interventions should be created to address these barriers. Current research and interventions do not address group-level social comparison processes that elevate lack of service use. Particularly, pluralistic ignorance has not been assessed—that is, the systematic misperception of others' cognitions and behaviors within a social group. It is possible that pluralistic ignorance contributes to the underutilization of services on college campuses. I began this assessment in three studies. In Study 1 (N = 198) college students misperceived other students as being less willing to use mental health services and as harboring more service use stigma compared to the average self-reported attitudes of the sample. In Study 2 (NT1 = 260, NT2 = 145) these group-level misperceptions were replicated. Furthermore, individual-level indicators of pluralistic ignorance (i.e., personal attitudes, perceptions of others' attitudes, and their interaction) predicted later pluralistic ignorance-related behavioral and attitudinal implications (e.g., changes in alcohol use and perceptions of academic success). In Study 3 (N = 378) I experimentally assessed the chief components of a pluralistic ignorance intervention. I found evidence for the effectiveness of an intervention that incorporates both a norm misperception correction and a lesson about pluralistic ignorance in addressing misperceptions and increasing service use interest. In this research I utilize cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental methods to expose and assess pluralistic ignorance in a new context, I highlight the usefulness of using individual-level indicators of pluralistic ignorance to predict pluralistic ignorance-related implications, and I begin the necessary process of developing a pluralistic ignorance intervention.


Open Access