A multisite randomized trial of normative feedback for heavy drinking: Social comparison versus social comparison plus correction of normative misperceptions


Objective: Given widespread alcohol misuse among college students, numerous intervention programs have been developed, including personalized normative feedback (PNF). Most research evaluating PNF assumes that presenting one's own perceived norms is necessary to correct normative misperceptions and thereby reduce drinking. Alternatively, simply providing social comparison information showing that one drinks more than others may be sufficient. The present study evaluated the efficacy of full PNF (one's own drinking, campus drinking rates, and perceived norms) and a partial personalized social comparison feedback (PSCF; one's own drinking and campus drinking rates) in a randomized trial among heavy-drinking college students. Method: Participants included 623 heavy-drinking students from three universities. Assessments occurred at baseline and three- and six-months post-baseline. Results: Primary analyses examined differences across four drinking outcomes (drinks per week, total drinks past month, frequency of past month drinking, and negative alcohol-related consequences) at three- and six-month follow-ups controlling for the baseline variable. Results revealed significant reductions across all alcohol consumption outcomes at three months in both intervention conditions compared to attention-control. Mediation analyses demonstrated significant indirect effects of the intervention on six-month drinking through changes in perceived norms at three months. Moreover, evidence emerged for changes in drinking at three months as a mediator of the association between PSCF and six-month perceived norms. Conclusions: The present research suggests PNF may not require explicit consideration of one's perceived norms in order to be effective and that direct social comparison provides an alternative theoretical mechanism for PNF efficacy.



College, Alcohol, Personalized normative feedback, Social norms


Copyright 2016 Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2015-58965-001. Recommended citation: Neighbors, Clayton, Melissa A. Lewis, Joseph LaBrie, Angelo M. DiBello, Chelsie M. Young, Dipali V. Rinker, Dana Litt, Lindsey M. Rodriguez, C. Raymond Knee, Ezekiel Hamor, Jessica M. Jerabeck, and Mary E. Larimer. "A Multisite Randomized Trial of Normative Feedback for Heavy Drinking: Social Comparison Versus Social Comparison Plus Correction of Normative Misperceptions." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 84, no. 3 (2016): 238-247. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000067. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.