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Title: Individual differences in attentional processing of responsible drinking statements in alcohol packaging, public health campaigns and alcohol advertising among alcohol consumers
Author: Kersbergen, Inge
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 8135
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2017
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We live in an environment in which alcohol is easily available and widely marketed. Alcohol advertising has been shown to increase long-term and short-term alcohol consumption. On the other hand, governments and industry use warning labels and public health campaigns to inform the public of the harmful effects of alcohol in an attempt reduce alcohol-related harm. There is not much evidence that labels and campaigns affect drinking behaviour, but evidence from other domains suggests that individual differences in attentional processing might moderate effects on behaviour. In this thesis, I tested the general hypothesis that individual differences in visual attention to alcohol cues and responsible drinking statements would underlie the effect of alcohol-related mass persuasion attempts (i.e., alcohol advertisements, warning labels and public health campaigns) on drinking behaviour and its antecedents, in young adult alcohol consumers. The secondary aim of this thesis was to examine the direct effect of alcohol-related mass persuasion attempts on drinking intentions and alcohol consumption shortly after exposure. To study this, I first conducted a cross-sectional study and a between-subjects experimental study to investigate attention to warning labels on alcohol packaging and examine whether priming participants to direct their attention to warning labels would prompt them to intend to drink less alcohol. Findings suggested that existing UK warning labels did not attract substantial attention and the amount of attention that participants directed to them did not affect their drinking intentions (Chapter 2). I subsequently conducted three experimental studies to examine to what extent novel warning labels would capture attention and affect willingness to pay for alcohol. Findings showed that novel warning labels did not attract more attention than existing warning labels, nor did they significantly influence willingness to pay for alcohol (Chapter 3). With regard to televised alcohol advertisements, I conducted a between-subjects experiment in a semi-naturalistic environment to investigate whether alcohol advertising affected proximal alcohol consumption in a brand-specific or general manner. Results suggested that alcohol advertising did not affect drinking behaviour, however methodological limitations mean that these findings should be interpreted with caution (Chapter 4). Next, I conducted two experimental studies to examine how individual differences in visual attention to alcohol cues and responsible drinking statements in alcohol-related television adverts predicted drinking intentions and proximal alcohol consumption. Findings showed that attention to responsible drinking statements did not predict drinking intentions or immediate alcohol consumption, but visual attention to alcohol portrayal (an actor sipping alcohol) in alcohol advertising predicted increased alcohol consumption in the laboratory (Chapter 5). Overall, these findings demonstrate that responsible drinking statements/labels attract limited attention and that increased attention to these labels does not prompt alcohol consumers to intend to reduce their drinking. I found no evidence that alcohol-related persuasion affected immediate alcohol consumption or drinking intentions, but attentional processing of alcohol portrayal in alcohol advertising was associated with increased alcohol consumption shortly after exposure to the adverts. Finally, I conducted a focus group study to explore subjective evaluations of current warning labels and responsible drinking adverts Findings showed that participants did not consider warning labels/adverts to be personally relevant and that they mistrusted the message source. Instead, participants suggested that warning messages focussing on alcohol-related harm (to themselves or others) might be more persuasive. Combined with the findings from the laboratory studies, these findings suggest responsible drinking statements could attract more attention if their content and format were changed. The findings reported in this thesis further our understanding of the role of attention in alcohol-related persuasion. In line with recently published evaluations of public health campaigns and warning labels, these studies suggest that warnings in alcohol advertising and on packaging in their current form have little scope for changing drinking behaviour. Instead, it might be more fruitful to increase the noticeability of warning labels and impose restrictions on alcohol marketing and/or the visual content used within alcohol marketing.
Supervisor: Field, M. ; Robinson, E. ; Boyland, E. ; Rose, A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral