single session classroom-based expectancy challenge, alcohol use prevention, drinking, first-year college students


There is a pervasive belief in the United States that the college experience typically includes frequent social activities characterized by widespread alcohol use. Unfortunately, awareness of the hundreds of deaths and wide variety of other harms experienced by college students as a result of alcohol use is much less pervasive. In an effort to increase awareness of the negative impact of alcohol use on college campuses, the NIAAA commissioned a panel composed of scientists and college presidents to document alcohol-related harms and identify strategies that have been found to be effective in reducing risky alcohol use based on empirical evidence. The final report of this expert panel was released as a "Call to Action" for institutions nationwide in an effort to increase understanding of the severity and prevalence of risky alcohol use, and to provide descriptions of programs that were considered effective based on empirical evidence. Unfortunately, there were very few strategies found to be effective, and one of the effective approaches could only be implemented in specialized laboratories operated by scientists with expertise in expectancy challenge. Due to the severity and pervasiveness of the college alcohol problem and the limited number of strategies deemed effective, there is clearly a pressing need to develop and validate an expectancy challenge method that could be implemented by any institution without being limited by the need for a specialized laboratory and highly trained personnel. Achievement of these goals was the focus of the present project. To this end, an expectancy challenge curriculum designed for delivery in a college classroom was developed based on a laboratory delivered protocol previously found to be effective in reducing alcohol use among college students, and a classroom delivered curriculum previously found to be effective with high school students. The newly developed college classroom curriculum was implemented in a single session with groups of students during their regular class time in their usual classroom. Measures of alcohol use and associated harms were completed anonymously by each participant before completing the curriculum and for the month following completion of the curriculum. Analyses indicated significant reductions in alcohol consumption among males and females in comparison to students who were randomly assigned to a wait-list control condition. Unfortunately, significant reductions in alcohol-related harms were not found. The time periods for baseline and follow-up were only one month each, and that limitation in the number of opportunities to experience harms limits the likelihood of demonstrating a significant reduction in harms as well. Overall, this project represents an important advance in the development of alcohol use reduction strategies that are theory-based and effective in reducing alcohol use based on empirical evidence. In addition, the curriculum that was developed and validated in this project represents the first expectancy challenge method that can be readily implemented at any institution willing to devote one hour to reducing their students' risk for a long list of negative consequences associated with alcohol use on college campuses. Motivation and a typical classroom are all that is needed.


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Graduation Date



Dunn, Michael


Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program









Release Date

September 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Included in

Psychology Commons