When convincing college students not to binge drink, the University of Missouri says a new approach focused on what students have to gain by avoiding the dangerous behavior is more effective than messages aimed at what students have to lose. The findings contradict the negative, loss-based messages many groups have believed would be most effective toward binge drinking.
Called “gain-framed” messaging, researchers at the University of Missouri conducted multiple interviews with students based on four key elements related to binge drinking and its consequences: academic performance, personal relationships, safety and health. The messages that promoted doing better academically and succeeding at relationships by avoiding binge drinking seemed to be more convincing than messages aimed at the health consequences or other negative effects stemming from binge drinking.
However, messages for college students aimed at the positive effects of avoiding binge drinking were hard to find, say researchers. Most focused on the negative consequences. They hope the study will encourage new college prevention plans that focus on positively framing the reasons students should stay away from binge drinking behaviors. Extensions of the research study may explore the ways positively-framed messages about binge drinking can impact social media formats and the ways public service announcements are used on the Internet.
As addressed in a ScienceDaily article, student responses to messages about the benefits to their personal relationships from avoiding binge drinking were the highest of the four categories. In second ranking was academic performance, and then messages related to health benefits.