Using Counter Attitudinal Advocacy to Change Drinking Behavior

  • End date
    Dec 30, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Brown University
Updated on 24 February 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers


High volume drinking by young adults has proven resistant to change, so new approaches are needed. We adapt a theory-based attitude change strategy for use in alcohol prevention. This research tests the impact of brief writing and advocacy activities on subsequent drinking and negative consequences.


The persistence of risky drinking among young adults in college calls for continued efforts to prevent harms related to alcohol. Many prevention interventions rely on a primary mechanism of change: correcting exaggerated drinking norms. We propose to test a novel prevention strategy targeting another mechanism of change: creating attitude-behavior dissonance. To date, attitude change activities have not been harnessed as a behavior change strategy for alcohol abuse prevention, so this study adapts counter-attitudinal advocacy (CAA) to the alcohol prevention context. The goals of the proposed research are to demonstrate (a) the utility of CAA to change high volume drinking and related consequences, (b) that attitude change and attitude-behavior dissonance mediates the CAA manipulation effect, and (c) that CAA-induced risk reduction is not inferior to an established intervention based on Personalized Normative Feedback (PNF). A pair of studies will be implemented across two sites. First surveys to document peer behaviors and normative perceptions (N = 500 at each site) will be conducted, in order to deliver accurate, campus-specific PNF. The next study consists of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 2 experimental conditions (CAA and PNF) and a 3rd assessment only control condition to determine the impact of CAA on alcohol outcomes. For the RCT, a total of 600 heavy drinking students who have endorsed alcohol-related negative consequences will be recruited. Alcohol outcomes will be assessed at 1-, 3-, and 6-month follow-ups to test hypotheses that, relative to assessment only control, the CAA manipulation will decrease alcohol consumption and consequences. We will also test the hypothesis that CAA condition will be no less efficacious than (i.e., not inferior to) the PNF condition. The RCT also allows tests of hypotheses about effect moderators and mediators. This study will demonstrate the generalizability of CAA activities to the alcohol prevention context, as well as their generalizability across demographically different settings. Implications for the public health include establishing the efficacy of a new approach for reducing high volume drinking and related consequences among young adults.

Condition Alcohol Drinking, Alcohol Abuse
Treatment Counter Attitudinal Advocacy, Personalized Normative Feedback
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04042909
SponsorBrown University
Last Modified on24 February 2022


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Inclusion Criteria

Age 18-26
Male or female student at Brown University or University of Houston
Past month heavy episodic drinking (for men, >5 drinks in one day, for women >4 drinks in one day)
At least two self-reported negative consequences from drinking in the past month

Exclusion Criteria

status as a second semester Senior
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