When and how does normative feedback reduce intentions to drink irresponsibly? An experimental investigation
Addiction Research and Theory
Taylor & Francis
Reason for embargo
Currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by the publisher
Objectives: To test the effects of exposure to a campaign to discourage drinking alcohol drinks down in one gulp (“bolting”). Method: Laboratory experiments assessed the effects of exposure to (1) the campaign (Pilot Study; N=48), (2) the campaign combined with an injunctive norm message of explicit peer disapproval of bolting (Study 1; N=78), and (3) the campaign and a descriptive norm message of low prevalence of bolting (Study 2; N=96) on both normative perceptions of bolting and bolting intentions. Results: The Pilot Study showed that the campaign had no effect on norm perceptions or bolting intentions. In Study 1, the campaign was associated with higher, not lower, intentions to bolt drinks, an effect exacerbated by the injunctive norm information. Bootstrapping analyses of the indirect effects showed that participants perceived that bolting was more common when exposed to the campaign combined with the injunctive norm, and these negative descriptive norm perceptions were associated with stronger bolting intentions. In contrast, Study 2 showed that addition of the descriptive norm (i.e., low prevalence information) enhanced the effectiveness of the campaign. Conclusions: The results highlight the potentially harmful effects of exposure to an injunctive norm message of disapproval information and distinguish them from the beneficial impact of exposure to a descriptive norm message of low prevalence. The importance of pre-testing campaigns and providing process evaluations is discussed.
This research was supported by an Australian Research Council grant awarded to JS and WL (DP0877146). The work was partially funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care of the South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC; to CA) but the views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of NIHR or the UK Department of Health.
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