Personalized normative feedback for heavy drinking: An application of deviance regulation theory

Clayton Neighbors, Angelo M. DiBello, Chelsie M. Young, Mai Ly N. Steers, Dipali V. Rinker, Lindsey M. Rodriguez, C. Ryamond Knee, Hart Blanton, Melissa A. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Deviance Regulation Theory (DRT) proposes that individuals regulate their behavior to be in line with the behaviors of others. Specifically, individuals desire to stand out in positive way and not stand out in a negative way. DRT has been successfully applied to encourage other health behaviors and offers a unique method to utilize both injunctive norms in combination with descriptive norms in brief alcohol interventions. This randomized controlled trial evaluated a computer-delivered, norms-based personalized feedback intervention which systematically varied the focus on whether specific drinking behaviors were described as common or uncommon (a descriptive norm), whether the drinking behaviors were healthy versus unhealthy, and whether the drinking behaviors were positively or negatively framed (an injunctive norm). Nine-hundred and fifty-nine college drinkers completed baseline, three-month, and six-month follow-up assessments. Results indicated messages focusing on unhealthy drinking behaviors, particularly when described as uncommon, were most effective in reducing drinking and alcohol-related problems over time. This research utilizes deviance regulation theory as a way of improving personalized normative feedback by elucidating how to construct messages for brief interventions based on descriptive characteristics associated with specific target drinking behaviors in combination with perceptions of prevalence and acceptability of such drinking behaviors (an injunctive norm).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-82
Number of pages10
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
StatePublished - Apr 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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