Category: Addictive Behaviors
Introduction: Personalized feedback interventions (PFIs) are effective in decreasing alcohol consumption among college students. These interventions often include information regarding protective behavioral strategies (PBS). However, to date, no research has attempted to modify engagement in behavioral strategies using normative feedback. Given the importance of descriptive normative feedback within PFIs for alcohol use, PBS norms may be an important target for intervention. The current study sought to evaluate the impact of PBS normative feedback as part of an exploratory randomized trial.
Methods: Undergraduate students (N = 158) completed a baseline assessment of past-month PBS use, normative perceptions of PBS use, alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related consequences. Participants were then randomized to one of three conditions: typical strategies PFI, strategy norms PFI, or assessment-only control (AOC). The typical strategies PFI included a list of protective behavioral strategies with a check mark next to those that the participant indicated utilizing at baseline. Participants in the strategy norms PFI condition were provided the same list of strategies with feedback regarding how often the participant reported the typical college student at his/her university used each strategy (perceived norms), how often the typical student actually reported using each strategy (actual norms), and the proportion of students who reported using each strategy more often than the participant (percentile rank). Participants completed a 1-month follow-up assessment to evaluate changes in PBS use, normative perceptions of PBS use, alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related consequences.
Results: Compared to AOC, the strategy norms PFI was more efficacious in correcting participants’ perceptions of other students’ engagement in PBS [F(2, 141) = 3.36, p = .01]. However, no statistically significant differences were observed between conditions in terms of actual use of PBS, alcohol consumption, or alcohol-related negative consequences at 1-month follow-up (p > .05).
Discussion: The current study aimed to understand the efficacy of a norms-based PBS PFI targeted at increasing use of PBS among college student. This study is the first to compare the utility of typical strategies feedback to normative feedback regarding engagement in PBS. The strategy norms PFI was successful in increasing normative perceptions of engagement in PBS use, a potential first step in translating information into behavior change. Future research may incorporate additional components, such as normative feedback on alcohol use, to amplify the effects of the current intervention.
Eleanor Leavens– Graduate Student, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Mary Beth Miller– Brown University, Rhode Island
Emma Brett– Graduate Student, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Susanna Lopez– Graduate Student, Oklahoma State University
Thad Leffingwell– Oklahoma State University