Title

Scarred images: Using appearance as a motivator to reduce driving under the influence of alcohol

Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Eric Dahlen

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

In response to continued driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) amongst young adults and increased drinking and driving amongst females, the current study aimed to decrease such risky behavior using threats to appearance as a deterrent. One hundred and thirty-three undergraduates at the University of Southern Mississippi completed a three-part study after sequential assignment to one of three groups, a no-photo group, a crash scene photo group, or a personalized-photo group. Baseline measures were taken concerning participants' alcohol-related behaviors. One week later all groups were given statistical information commonly available in DUI prevention pamphlets together with strategies to avoid DUI. The no-photo group was not shown photographs; the crash-scene photo group was shown a photo of a serious car crash taken from the Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) website, and each participant of the personalized-photo group was shown his or her facial photograph altered to mimic the scarring and bruising common to DUI accidents. Post-intervention measures revealed a significant condition-by-trial interaction for riding with a drinking driver (RDD), however it reflected significant post-intervention increases in RDD for the no-photo group. As expected, the combination of sensation seeking, importance of appearance, alcohol expectancies, social desirability, aggressive driving, and risky driving were significant predictors of RDD, DUI, alcohol use in a car, and, seatbelt use. All groups reported less enjoyment from riding with a drinking driver following intervention and all groups experienced greater tension arousal following intervention. These unexpected findings are discussed as are the ancillary findings for decreased positive alcohol expectancies and increased negative alcohol expectancies across groups. A prior study using a similar approach (McNabb, 2000) found attitude and intention change for the personalized-photo group. While no significant behavior changes in DUI-related behaviors were found in this study, secondary analyses suggested that efforts to increase self-efficacy in performing risk-avoidant behaviors were not strong enough. Further, trends towards decrease DUI in the photo group and increased seatbelt use in that group provide support for further investigation in the use of these vivid personal appeals.