Factors That Influence College Students’ Risk Perceptions of Marijuana


  • Alayna Brooke Sheffield Georgia Southwestern State University
  • Judy Orton Grissett Georgia Southwestern State University


substance use, marijuana, college students, risk perceptions


The current study examines factors that affect college students’ risk perceptions and opinions on the legality of marijuana use (“risk perceptionsâ€).  A 22-question survey was administered to college students regarding background demographics, experiences with alcohol and cigarettes, experiences with anxiety and depression, and the number of people they knew to smoke marijuana.  Although no relationship was found between demographics, cigarette use, or anxiety and depression and risk perceptions, a negative correlation existed between alcohol use and risk perceptions, meaning that higher alcohol consumption was associated with lower risk perceptions of marijuana.  A positive relationship was also found between the number of marijuana users students knew and their risk perceptions, showing that the risk of using marijuana was viewed as having lower risk as the number of known marijuana smokers increased.

Author Biographies

Alayna Brooke Sheffield, Georgia Southwestern State University

I graduated Cum Laude in December of 2015 from Georgia Southwestern State University where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology.  My research experience includes the present research project that I designed, obtained IRB approval for, administered, and collected and analyzed data for.  I was mentored and assisted by my professor and advisor, Dr. Judy Orton Grissett.  I became involved in research through my professor in school and was able to count this research project toward course credit.  I have always found the relationship between drugs and behavior to be fascinating and this particular topic was of interest to me because of the recent debate over the legalization of marijuana.  I was interested to see what college students thought about the safety and legality of the drug.  This research project has been a learning experience that I greatly appreciate and I would encourage anyone else interested in the field of psychology to create and conduct their own study, as well.

Judy Orton Grissett, Georgia Southwestern State University

Judy Orton Grissett, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia. Dr. Grissett teaches courses in research methods, personality, health psychology, and psychological testing and supervises undergraduate students in their research projects.






Empirical Research