Tailored texts : an application of regulatory fit to text messages designed to reduce high-risk drinking
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Text-message interventions have been successful for weight loss, medication adherence, contraceptive use, smoking cessation, and sunscreen use. Although there are robust findings on message delivery and outcomes, little work has been done to look at message content from a communication and message language perspective. The goal of this study was to compare two versions of text message wording and the impact that each has on college students’ drinking behaviors. The study used regulatory focus and regulatory fit as the frameworks for message language manipulation. Regulatory fit is a model used to explain how individuals make decisions about engaging in goal-oriented behaviors and asserts that messages can be framed as either prevention-oriented or promotion-oriented. In this 2 (regulatory fit orientation- prevention or promotion) x 3 (treatment group- congruent, incongruent, or control) x 2 (pre-test, post-test) experiment, participants (N=279) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the congruent group (received messages that matched their regulatory focus), incongruent group (received messages that were mismatched with their regulatory focus), and the control group (received general health messages). Messages were tailored by regulatory fit (prevention-oriented or promotion-oriented), which was assessed prior to the intervention. Findings from mixed factorial analyses of covariance and univariate analyses of covariance revealed no significant differences among the treatment groups for use of protective strategies, consequences from drinking, attitudes toward the program, and perceived message persuasiveness. Additionally, there was no evidence to suggest that participants in the congruent and control groups changed their drinking behaviors. The findings did suggest that prevention-oriented individuals who received text messages that were incongruent with their regulatory focus reported drinking alcohol for more hours than participants in the congruent or control groups. Mean scores illustrated a pattern suggesting that prevention-oriented individuals who received incongruent messages were also more likely to consume a higher quantity of drinks and engage in high-risk drinking behaviors than individuals in the congruent and control groups. Therefore, there is reason to believe that sending text messages about alcohol that do not match an individual’s regulatory focus can lead to negative drinking behaviors.