Correcting Exaggerated Drinking Norms With a Mobile Message Delivery System: Selective Prevention With Heavy-Drinking First-Year College Students

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Many efficacious interventions designed to reduce college student drinking aim to correct misperceptions of peers’ drinking behavior. The present study tested the efficacy of a novel delivery strategy, namely text messages, for promoting promoderation descriptive and injunctive drinking norms. Participants included 121 college students who were randomly assigned to receive daily text messages containing accurate drinking norms (experimental group, n = 61) or historical facts (control group, n = 60) for 10 weeks following a baseline assessment. Participants completed 3-month postbaseline and 6-month postbaseline follow-up assessments. The 3-month assessment revealed that promoderation text messages were effective for reducing peak consumption and alcohol consequences. Changes in descriptive norms and injunctive norms aligned with these two behavioral outcomes. The intervention group reported perceiving others as drinking less on their heaviest drinking day and perceived others as being less approving of alcohol-related consequences than the control group. The intervention group also reported more peer approval of using protective behavioral strategies. Yet intervention effects were not maintained. None of the outcome measures differed by condition at the 6-month postbaseline assessment. Thus, the intervention had short-term effects on self-reported drinking behavior as well as on perceptions of drinking norms. However, the behavioral changes were not maintained when participants were assessed in the second semester after the daily text messages intervention had stopped.

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