Monday, February 26, 2007

Everybody's Doing It!

Starting college and moving away from home means taking the next big step in a one’s life. For many students venturing out one one’s own means a life full of freedom, choices and responsibility. A time to make mistakes, learn from them and to to also act upon good judgment. However, it also means that students can no longer depend on their parents to blame for their acctions. Students are accountable for their own actions. Although parents send their school in hope of what is best for them, many students secretly confine their social lives from their parents. Parents have yet to find out what goes on after the long goodbyes. While some parents think that their child is the perfect angel, playing ultimate beer pong proves otherwise. Some of the actions may not seem like a big deal at first, but students night lives may well effect their overall performance in school. Thursday nights for many means an early start towards the weekend. If you have ever ridden the late night point-to-point bus (P2P) at UNC, one can easily tell how much of an influence drinking has on a majority of students on college campuses. Whether a student passes out beside you, or sticks their head out of the window to relieve themselves, the social nightlife takes up a lot of a college student’s life. Now every weekend, the easiest way to euphoria is to travel down to the fraternity and sorority houses that are more than likely available to anyone with a UNC I.D.

For many students this may only seem like having a good time, but to the research team of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,
excessive alcohol consumption in college students not only causes problems on the campus, but also on its surroundings. In trying to change the drinking habits and safety of students who consume alcohol, Angela K. Fournier and three of her colleagues implemented an incentive reward to see if the drinking behavior patterns of students changes. Prior research determined that 80% to 90% of college student’s drink and that could possibly lead to several negative consequences. Problems include poor academic work, unplanned sexual activity, assault, property damage, violence and more than likely vehicle crashes. Greek life students consume more than a non-Greek friend, and more likely suffer the consequences. After playing three rounds of beer pong, or hall crawl, students’ better judgment becomes impaired. Likewise, more students at a fraternity party are than likely to be more intoxicated than students in a private party, which deemed the best place for the team choosing to test their hypothesis.

Since fraternities are the most popular drinking environment, researchers found this the perfect place to use the intervention/reward method. Rather than targeting students who depend on alcohol, the target population was a host of people who abuse their alcohol intake. As a method to lower the percentage of heavy drinkers at a safe level, the surveyors gave 365 BAC assessments to the students. As each participant agreed to become part of the experiment, the researchers gave students Nomograms to monitor their intake and control their BAC.

Blended in as regular college students, the surveyors attended all four of the parties where they stood at the door of both intervention parties from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. where the participants were given the Nomograms and tips on how to keep their buzz at the safe level. Tips included drinking water and snacking on food while they drank. Fliers were large to capture the participants attention. The reward money amount was in big bold letters and hte target goal .05 bold and underlined. At the baseline party, the surveyors came in unrecognized, took a few information and left. Six months later, the researchers gave interviews to the people who participated in the experiment.

Evidence from a previous experiment with an incentive/reward program has already been successful with E.S. Geller in his attempt to promote seat belt usage on university campuses through incentive strategies. As a belief that different types of reinforcement can change the way people act, the surveyors attended an intervention party where they passed out fliers informing students of a chance to be entered into a drawing where they could win $100 if their BAC was less than .05. The reward money set for an alcohol level at .05 meant that the effects occurring in teens at this level are relaxed and desirable since W.J. Bailey concluded in Drug Abuse in American Society that a person reaches euphoria at .04 to .06, which is most desirable during drinking.

Overall, participants had showed a more of a decrease at the intervention parties than at the baseline parties all showing less than 50% as opposed to the baseline parties who were well over. While students come to college with the intentions to fit in and make the most of their college experience, sometimes for others it means taking those late night trips to frat court where the majority of drinking occurs. Aiming to change the drinking behavior of college students through methods of reinforcement demonstrates that the approach can help to maintain chaos. More than likely, using incentive/reward methods for other settings in the university policy could further help parts of the community achieve what seemed like unattainable goals.

Unarguably, students will be students no matter what campust they attend. Some of the things they chose to do are not as healthy nor as safe as others. Although parents may not be able to monitor their kids everyday, programs and studies such as the incentive program given at the frat parties may help put students back on the tract to a successful college career.
This Behavior Modification case study may influence many other groups of people to change the way they use and abuse other substances. Maybe some students will be making the best use of their parents money after all. Instead of missing an 8:OO class from an all-night hangover at the frat house, more students will chose to drink more responsively and with moderation.

Fournier, Angela K., Ian J. Ehrhart, Kent E. Glindermann, and E. Scott Geller.
Intervening to Decrease Alcohol Abuse at University Parties: Differential
Reinforcement of Intoxication Level. Behavior Modification. 28. 167. 2004. 18 Feb.
2007. <>

No comments: