STUDY | 
Health
 BEHAVIOR CHANGE

Optimizing personalized normative feedback: the use of gender-specific referents.

Lewis (2007)
Summary by 

Many brief interventions include personalized normative feedback (PNF) using gender-specific or gender-neutral referents. Several theories suggest that information pertaining to more socially proximal referents should have greater influence on ones behavior compared with more socially distal referents. The current research evaluated whether gender specificity of the normative referent employed in PNF related to intervention efficacy. Following baseline assessment, 185 college students (45.2% women) were randomly assigned to one of three intervention conditions: gender-specific feedback, gender-neutral feedback, or assessment-only control. Immediately after completing measures of perceived norms, alcohol consumption, and gender identity, participants in the gender-neutral and gender-specific intervention conditions were provided with computerized information detailing their own drinking behavior, their perceptions of student drinking, and actual student drinking. After a 1-month follow-up, the results indicated that normative feedback was effective in changing perceived norms and reducing alcohol consumption for both intervention groups for women and men. The results provide support, however, for changes in perceived gender-specific norms as a mediator of the effects of normative feedback on reduced drinking behavior for women only. Additionally, gender-specific feedback was found to be more effective for women higher in gender identity, relative to the gender-neutral feedback. A post-assessment follow-up telephone survey administered to assess potential demand characteristics corroborated the intervention effects. Results extend previous research documenting efficacy of computer delivered PNF. Gender specificity and gender identity appear to be important elements to consider for PNF intervention efficacy for women.