The effects of pre-intervention mindset induction on a brief intervention to increase risk perception and reduce alcohol use among university students: A pilot randomized controlled trial

Natascha Büchele, Lucas Keller, Anja C Zeller, Freya Schrietter, Julia Treiber, Peter M Gollwitzer, Michael Odenwald
PloS One 2020, 15 (9): e0238833

OBJECTIVE: Brief interventions based on personalized feedback have shown promising results in reducing risky alcohol use among university students. We investigated the effects of activating deliberative (predecisional) or implemental (postdecisional) mindsets on the effectiveness of a standardized brief intervention, the ASSIST-linked Brief Intervention. This intervention comprises a personalized feedback and a decisional balance exercise. We hypothesized that participants in a deliberative mindset should show better outcomes related to risk perception and behavior than participants in an implemental mindset.

METHODS: A sample of 257 students provided baseline measures on risk perception, readiness to change, and alcohol use. Of those, 64 students with risky alcohol use were randomly allocated to one of two mindset induction conditions-deliberative or implemental mindset. Thereafter, they received the ASSIST-linked Brief Intervention and completed self-report questionnaires on changes in risk perception, alcohol use, and readiness to change at post-intervention and four-week follow-up.

RESULTS: In contrast to our hypotheses, the four-weeks follow-up revealed that participants in the implemental mindset consumed significantly less alcohol than participants in a deliberative mindset did. The former decreased and the latter increased their alcohol intake; resistance to the brief intervention was stronger in the latter condition. However, neither deliberative nor implemental mindset participants showed any changes in risk perceptions or in their readiness to change alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that mindset induction is a powerful moderator of the effects of the ASSIST-linked Brief Intervention. We argue that systematic research on mindset effects on brief intervention techniques aimed to reduce risky alcohol use is highly needed in order to identify the processes involved with commitment and resistance being the main candidates.

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