Alcohol, college students, expectancy, intervention, prevention, expectancy challenge


High-risk alcohol consumption remains a primary public health concern for students on college campuses. In response to this concern the National Advisory Council of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism created a task force to identify and recommend strategies to aid college administrators in implementing effective alcohol programming at their institutions. While most administrators report being aware of these recommendations, many have not successfully implemented empirically supported interventions on their campuses. One significant barrier is the cost and difficulty of training and hiring skilled staff to implement these interventions. Of the strategies identified as effective, challenging alcohol expectancies is the only strategy validated for group administration with college students and has significant potential to address this remaining barrier. However, current expectancy-based interventions still require highly trained expert facilitators for implementation. The present study aimed to convert the previously validated Expectancy Challenge Alcohol Literacy Curriculum (ECALC) into a digital format amenable to non-expert facilitation. The resulting digital ECALC was implemented in 48 class sections of a first year student course in a group randomized trial. It was hypothesized that receiving the digital ECALC would result in significant changes in alcohol expectancies and subsequent changes in alcohol use and related harms. Analyses revealed significant changes in both positive and negative expectancies following the digital ECALC, however no significant changes in alcohol consumption or alcohol-related harms were observed at a 30 day follow-up. Exploratory subgroup analyses revealed significant differences between experimental and control groups on average and peak drinks per sitting for classes receiving the digital ECALC during the fall semester only. Semester specific variables, environmental context, and social influence variables may have contributed to the lack of behavioral changes in the overall sample following observed expectancy changes. This study represents an important development in expectancy-based interventions for college students as the digital format removed the need for an expert facilitator and maintained significant changes in expectancies. Future studies should focus on replication of these expectancy changes and on demonstrating subsequent changes in alcohol use and related harms. The present study also represents the first evaluation of a group-administered expectancy intervention to report on intra-class correlations which will aid future researchers in designing sufficiently powered studies going forward.


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Graduation Date





Dunn, Michael


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Psychology; Clinical Psychology








Release Date

August 2014

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic