Using media for the prevention of drug use and substance abuse Prof. William Crano UNODC Consultant Professor of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University, USA 2 Can Mass Media Reduce Illicit Substance Use? 3 Characteristics of successful media campaigns • Always based on established theories of persuasion, not whim or “common sense” • Usually used subtle message appeals, not extreme threats or extremely directive language, which often had adverse effects • Often appealed to parents, or were associated with parental monitoring • Sometimes were designed to educate parents about the dangers of substance misuse • Sometimes involved larger efforts, including school & community 4 Why have our media-based efforts often failed? • The recipe for failure. Unsuccessful campaigns were: – Never based on established theories of message-based persuasion, but rather apparently reasonable ideas about what to say, and how to say it – Almost always obviously manipulative – Often used fear-based appeals, that made unrealistic threats, that were easily disproved or inconsistent with experience – Never appealed to, or involved parents, schools, or the larger community What to do? A quick review of the process of persuasive change 6 Assume resistance by the audience • If your suggestion is contrary to the beliefs or intentions of the audience, they will resist by: – Disconfirming the logic of the message – Debasing source of the message – Distorting the message (biased misunderstanding) 7 How can a message be persuasive? • Raise question in receiver’s mind about the advisability of an action or belief, with strong communications that are difficult to counter • Provide an answer to the question • Target or tailor the persuasive message to unique susceptibilities of the group or individual to enhance message effects 8 The signature ad of the National Youth Anti-drug Media Campaign – What do you think of it? 9 The goals • Make counter-argumentation difficult, impossible, or apparently unnecessary. • Ensure message source is viewed as expert. • Tailor the persuasive message to unique susceptibilities of the group or individual to enhance message effects. Choose your target! – Do you want to reinforce resolute nonusers? – Or, persuade those who are contemplating drug use to resist? – Or, influence users to quit? How to beat counter-argumentation • Use sources who have nothing to gain by audience’s agreement (expert, scientist, trusted media person, etc.) • Make counter-arguing difficult by media overload or distraction (highly media active presentation that captures attention and lowers ability to counter-argue) • Misdirection: vary the apparent target of persuasion; good chance of persistent change if message is strong. Example of misdirection • “Parents [Students], I’d like to talk to you today about an important issue…message attacked illicit substance use – Middle-school youth significantly more persuaded by “Parents” ad. Why counter-argue a message to Mom? • Arizona anti-smoking campaign – • Second hand smoke ads directed to parents worked… on adolescents as well as parents! • Both of these studies succeeded because the audience did not recognize the need to counter-argue 12 The “Parents” Campaign • Parents – the anti-drug – Unlike more costly campaigns, this smaller scale national campaign had a positive impact on adolescents’ drug use • Why? – Most obviously, parents became more aware and monitored children more closely – Less obviously, children saw the ads, and did not counterargue – why bother? The ad was directed at Mama 13 Can parents really have a major impact on their adolescent children? If so, can insights from studies of parents’ effects be transferred to mass media campaigns? 14 17 Effects of parental monitoring • Analysis combined data of 17 studies involving 35,000 (parent and child) pairs of respondents • Studied link between parental monitoring and their adolescent children’s marijuana use • Results indicated a significant relation between monitoring and adolescent marijuana use: Greater monitoring = less use – Stronger association in girls than boys – Stronger when monitoring was defined strictly in terms of open communication between parents and children – Strong evidence against chance (7,358 studies of nil effects required to render overall result statistically non-significant). 21 Implications for policy makers (1/2) • Choose and target your audience [users, intenders, resolute nonusers] • Message must: – Raise question – Provide answer – Reinforce acceptance • Carefully work to overcome counter-arguments. • Do not over-promise or over-threaten: the scalpel is more effective than the axe 22 Implications for policy makers (2/2) • Involve experts on theories of persuasion and communication (the ‘creative people’ are not enough!) • Use formative research and evaluate, evaluate, evaluate • Involve research institutions and universities • Involve parents if possible • If it is not possible, make it possible 23 A parting note from the author of these slides • The requirements I have discussed are not difficult, but they are unforgiving. They require knowledge and motivation. I have tried to provide some knowledge and hopefully, much motivation • • • Creative ads are wonderful, if they follow these rules; if not, they are a waste of time, energy, and scarce resources Thank you for your kind attention. I wish you all the best in your important work Prof. William Crano, Professor of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University, USA.