Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #24
Field Approaches to Reducing College Drinking: Environmental Influences and Interventions beyond Self-Report
Saturday, May 24, 2014
1:00 PM–2:50 PM
W190b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: CSE/OBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Ryan C. Smith (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
Discussant: E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)

Alcohol consumption among college students continues as a significant public-health concern. The development of innovative interventions and more precise measurement is needed to address this costly societal problem. The four field studies of this symposium extend beyond the measurement weaknesses of self-reported alcohol consumption (e.g., social desirability, recall bias, misunderstanding the definition of a standard drink, etc.) by sending trained researchers into at-risk drinking situations with breathalyzers. Each study makes a unique contribution to developing behavior-based interventions for reducing alcohol-related harm on college and university campuses. The first study examines "alcoholidays"- holidays strongly associated with alcohol consumption. Environmental and psychological risk factors were examined across Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, and multiple control nights. The second study explored the influence of an individual's social-drinking group on level of intoxication. The third study assessed the accuracy of various field sobriety techniques and examined the efficacy of such performance feedback at promoting safer transportation decisions. The final study is a four-year longitudinal investigation of university-student alcohol consumers. Over 10,000 BACs were examined across nearly 100 nights to examine the impact of breathalyzer feedback on intoxication awareness. The results provided implications for how and when to provide BAC feedback.

Keyword(s): alcohol, college, field research, intervention

Costumes, Celebrations, and Consequences: Do College Students Drink more on Alcoholidays?

VICTORIA DEAL (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute), Joseph DeRoma (Center for Applied Behavior Systems), William Parker (Center for Applied Behavior Systems), M. Cecilia Montoya (Center for Applied Behavior Systems), Brock Bosack (Center for Applied Behavior Systems)

While alcohol-related harm is a recurring and daily issue on a college/university campus, alcohol consumption and concomitant at-risk behaviors are even greater on celebratory days. Indeed, it has been found that celebratory occasions can increase blood alcohol content (BAC) by over 20% (Glindemann, Wiegand, & Geller, 2007). The current study examined the environmental influence of these "alcoholidays" across four years. Research assistants were sent to a downtown, university bar setting with breathalyzers to measure student BACs. Data were collected across days when Halloween and St. Patrick's Day were celebrated and on comparison weekends. Not only was BAC measured, but also the extent a participant was wearing any attire associated with a celebrated occasion (e.g., wearing a costume on Halloween). The results addressed two research questions. First, will average BACs be higher on "alcoholidays" than on other nights? Theresults show BACs were higher on alcoholidays when the celebration night fell on a weekday. Second, will the impact of celebratory attire influence BAC? It was found that participants who dressed up in celebration-related attire drank significantly more than their peers on a given night. Thus, environmental influences play a strong role in at-risk alcoholiday university drinking.


Feeling Peer Pressure: How Does the Alcohol Consumption of Students' Drinking Groups Influence Their Intoxication?

MOLLY BOWDRING (Child Study Center-Virginia Tech), Ryan C. Smith (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute), Zechariah Robinson (Virginia Tech), Victoria Deal (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute), Johnathan Eisenheimer (Center for Applied Behavior Systems)

Alcohol consumption at colleges and universities causes profound negative consequences. Social influence is a critical factor in understanding this at-risk alcohol consumption. Thus, the influence of one's drinking group on one's intoxication was explored in the present study. Specifically, this research examined whether individuals consuming alcohol reached blood alcohol contents (BACs) similar to others in their drinking group. Participants (n= 534) in a downtown field setting completed a brief questionnaire and were coded into unique groups if one or more of their friends also participated in the study. After completion of the survey, a Lifeloc FC-20 breathalyzer was administered to obtain participants' BACs. As shown in the figure, the average standard deviation of BACs within a drinking group was significantly smaller than the standard deviation of BACs across all drinking groups. This difference could be explained by peer support (i.e., individuals being reinforced for drinking similarly to other members of the drinking group) and peer pressure (i.e., individuals punished for drinking outside of their group's drinking norm) Thus, this study indicated an individual's drinking group plays a critical role in his or her consumption of alcohol and resultant intoxication. Implications for prevention intervention will be discussed.


Assessing the Validity and Efficacy of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in a University-Downtown Setting

ZACH MANNES (Virginia Tech), Alexandra Bazdar (Center for Applied Behavior Systems), Nicole Good (Center for Applied Behavior Systems), Molly Bowdring (Child Study Center-Virginia Tech), E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)

One source of alcohol-related harm is lack of awareness regarding one's own blood alcohol content (BAC). Thus, we hypothesized providing intoxication feedback to college students in an at-risk drinking setting would reduce alcohol abuse. Accordingly, this study examined the BAC-estimation accuracy and efficacy of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) to promote safe driving decisions. The walk-and-turn and one-leg-stand SFSTs were evaluated. A third test was also evaluated- the counting-backwards test. Data were collected on three separate nights with 309 individuals participating. Three types of BAC feedback were provided: breathalyzer, nomogram, and results from the field sobriety tests. Conditions were defined by which type of feedback participants received prior to answering questions related to their propensity to engage in risky, driving-related behavior. In addition to assessing the impact of these feedback techniques at promoting safer driving decisions, the accuracy of these tests at estimating intoxication was explored.Overall, sobriety tests predicted intoxication only slightly better than chance. BAC feedback was able to provide a small shift to safer perceptions of driving risk. The SFSTs results indicated the development of more accurate sobriety tests is sorely needed.


A Longitudinal Investigation of Alcohol Consumption among University Students: Impact of Repeated Breathalyzer Feedback

RYAN C. SMITH (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute), Sarah Robinson (Center for Applied Behavior Systems), Maggie Dassira (Center for Applied Behavior Systems), Zach Mannes (Virginia Tech), Kristina Clevinger (Center for Applied Behavior Systems)

At-risk alcohol consumption is common among college and university students. Breathalyzer feedback may help students estimate their level of intoxication more accurately, and thus serve as an effective intervention approach to preventing at-risk alcohol consumption. The current study examined the epidemiology of alcohol consumption among university students, while also exploring the efficacy of BAC feedback as an intervention strategy. A total of 12,432 breath-alcohol readings were collected across 89 nights during seven academic semesters. Individuals were tracked across multiple nights of participation with a unique subject code. This resulted in 10,225 unique individuals participating in the study; 18% of these individuals participated on at least two separate nights. Results demonstrated extreme levels of student alcohol consumption represented by a mean BAC of 0.0988mL/L. Individuals who participated across multiple nights reached similar levels of intoxication across all nights (rs .374- .853.) Furthermore, receiving BAC feedback helped students better estimate their level of intoxication. A mixed model analysis examined the discrepancy between estimated BAC and actual BAC across five nights of participation in the study. The results indicated individuals were .0171mL/L more accurate estimating their actual BAC at Time 5 versus Time 1 (p< .01).




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