Social normative feedback to prevent student alcohol misuse: Randomised controlled trial

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Prevention scientists have studied a number of different approaches to prevent alcohol misuse by college students. One of the most prominent current approaches, from social norms theory, is based on the notion that people tend to overestimate how much their peers drink, leading them to drink more to “catch up” with their peers. So if we can correct this misperception about peer drinking levels then this should prevent such “catch-up” drinking. We have reviewed the scientific evidence for brief personalised social norms prevention interventions in college settings, finding some evidence from a small number of studies to support this approach. However, in a large randomised controlled trial to replicate the best of these studies, we failed to find any effects supporting the effectiveness of a brief personalised intervention. Reasons for this failure to replicate findings will be discussed.


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Professor David Foxcroft