Enhancing the efficacy of computerized feedback interventions for college alcohol misuse: An exploratory randomized trial

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2016 Feb;84(2):122-33. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000066. Epub 2015 Dec 21.


Objective: Personalized feedback interventions (PFIs) have been associated with decreased alcohol consumption and related problems among college students; however, the necessary and sufficient components responsible for efficacy remain unclear. The present study investigated the relative efficacy of 3 computerized PFIs with differing content, the content-specific mechanisms of change within PFIs, and the moderating roles of comparison orientation and baseline risk in intervention outcomes.

Method: College students (N = 212) reporting alcohol use in a typical week completed an assessment prior to randomization (norms PFI, enhanced PFI, choice PFI, assessment only) and 1 month postintervention.

Results: Participants who received a PFI reported greater decreases in alcohol use, peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC), related problems, and perceptions of typical students' drinking than those in the control group. Neither tendency to compare oneself with others nor baseline risk moderated outcomes. PFIs influenced weekly alcohol use indirectly through changes in descriptive normative perceptions and alcohol-related consequences indirectly through changes in peak BAC.

Conclusions: Computerized PFIs are more effective than assessment alone in decreasing alcohol use and related problems among college students. Normative comparisons may be sufficient to elicit behavior change, and inclusion of select additional components may not yield significant improvements in outcomes. However, the consistent benefit of including feedback on physical and monetary costs of drinking and moderation strategies, although nonsignificant, may warrant the negligible increase in time and money required to provide such information electronically. Computerized PFIs seem to be an ideal first step to the prevention and treatment of college alcohol misuse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking in College*
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome*
  • Young Adult