Anti-drinking Ads May Encourage Drinking

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A groundbreaking study finds that anti-drinking ads may lead to more drinking.

The Study

Researchers at Indiana University conducted a study that looked at the impact of anti-drinking ads, specifically those that focused on possible negative consequences of alcohol abuse and elicited feelings of guilt or shame in the viewer. Their findings showed that these ads may actually result in more irresponsible drinking rather than less. This appears to be because the ads trigger a coping mechanism in viewers that allows them to distance themselves from the seriousness of the ad, convincing themselves that the negative consequences of alcohol abuse only happen to "other people."

What Does This Mean?

Anti-drinking ads have long relied upon the technique of showing the severe consequences of irresponsible drinking, and this new study shows that this method may be doing more harm than good. The researchers also note that similar negative advertisements intending to curb other behaviors, like smoking or unsafe sex, may also be unintentionally causing the behavior they are trying to stop.

The researchers suggest that more effective--and less harmful--anti-drinking ads would make use of messages of empowerment. Providing strategies to control one's drinking and offering positive support appear to be more successful in curbing alcohol abuse than focusing on only the negative consequences.

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