The Predictive Value of Prototypes on Young People's Alcohol use: Tests using Innovative Designs
06 / 2007 - 03 / 2011
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
Excessive alcohol use can have detrimental consequences for young people's current and future health status. According to recent epidemiological studies, Dutch student?s alcohol use is characterized by exceptionally high drinking levels. Since current prevention strategies have not succeeded in bringing down Dutch youngsters' alcohol consumption, new approaches are warranted. A promising concept for the explanation of young people's alcohol use is the role of young people's social images associated with alcohol use. Youngsters have clear and salient social images of the type of people their age who engage in alcohol use. Their perceptions of the typical drinker are also referred to as 'prototypes'. The relationship between drinker prototypes and young people's alcohol intake is well-established. However, the existing research stems from correlational studies that are based on adolescents' self-reports. Therefore, no definite conclusions can be drawn about the predictive value of drinker prototypes on youngsters' actual drinking behavior and the direction of the relationship between these two variables. In addition, the current research lacks important information on contextual en individual characteristics that may influence the impact of drinker prototypes on young people's drinking patterns. I will critically examine the true value of prototypes in predicting actual alcohol use among young adults by employing an innovative methodological approach, i.e. observational experiments in a naturalistic drinking setting. The proposal consists of four observational studies among weekly drinking students conducted in a bar lab. The use of a bar lab enables us to study the more typical real-life behaviors that people normally display when using alcohol in bars and other public places. By manipulating drinker prototypes, contextual characteristics and individual differences, I will gain more insight into the theoretical and practical value of drinker prototypes as possible target for alcohol prevention strategies.