The impact of self and peer perceptual differences on student social behaviour


Cole Armstrong, The National Centre for Social Research, 35 Northampton Square, London, EC1V 0AX, United Kingdom (e-mail:


Background. The development of socially appropriate behaviour is increasingly seen as an important part of a student's education.

Aim. To examine whether changes in a student's behaviour, as part of an ongoing social empathy intervention, can in part be explained by the difference between the student's self-perception of their behaviour and their peers-perception of their behaviour.

Method. A school population (383 students from year levels 4 to 6) was assessed for a range of prosocial and antisocial behaviours. Assessments were made by the students themselves, and by peer nominations of their classmates. A perceptual difference index was calculated to determine the difference between the student's self-assessment and their peers' assessment of their behaviour.

Results. Hierarchical regression found that students' prosocial behaviour increased more over the course of the school year when self-perception of their prosocial behaviour more closely matched the perceptions of their class-peers. Similarly, students' antisocial behaviour decreased more over the school year when their self and peer perceptions of their antisocial behaviour were more closely aligned. Very few personal demographics were associated with either type of behaviour, and overall there was found to be a great deal of stability in behaviour.

Conclusion. This study highlights the importance of taking into account students' personal characteristics when developing interventions to encourage socially appropriate behaviour. Furthermore, it suggests that in order to achieve positive change, any intervention must engage student's self-beliefs regarding their behaviour.