Developing discrepancy within self-regulation theory: use of personalized normative feedback and personal strivings with heavy-drinking college students

Addict Behav. 2004 Feb;29(2):281-97. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2003.08.004.


Efforts to reduce the frequency of high-risk drinking have included the use of motivational interventions. Both the technique used in motivational interventions and an underlying theory of behavior change (i.e., self-regulation theory) invoke the construct of discrepancy development. This study was designed to determine whether techniques purported to develop discrepancy actually do so and to compare methods of developing discrepancy on indices of intention to reduce alcohol use. Male and female college drinkers (N=92) were selected if they reported two or more binge episodes in the last month, or scored 4 or higher on the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI). Participants were randomly assigned by gender to three conditions all conducted in a small group format: attention-control, personalized normative feedback (PNF), and personal strivings assessment (PSA). Personalized normative feedback was designed to develop discrepancy based on behavioral comparisons of self and others. Personal strivings assessment was designed to develop discrepancy between current and ideal self. It was hypothesized that participants who engage in discrepancy building activities would experience discrepancy specific to the activity in which they engaged, and that all participants who developed discrepancy would show higher levels of intention to reduce alcohol use. Results indicated that only the personalized normative feedback increased discrepancy and intention to reduce alcohol use.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics
  • Social Control, Informal*
  • Students / psychology*