Social influences on gambling among adolescents and adults have been well documented and may be particularly evident among college students, who have higher rates of problem and pathological gambling relative to the general population. Personalized normative feedback (PNF) is a brief intervention designed to correct misperceptions regarding the prevalence of problematic behavior by showing individuals engaging in such behaviors that their own behavior is atypical with respect to actual norms. The current randomized controlled trial evaluated a computer-delivered PNF intervention for problem gambling college students.
Following a baseline assessment, 252 college student gamblers scoring 2+ on the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) were randomly assigned to receive PNF or attention-control feedback. Follow-up assessments were completed 3 and 6 months postintervention.
Results indicated significant intervention effects in reducing perceived norms for quantities lost and won, and in reducing actual quantity lost and gambling problems at the 3-month follow-up. All intervention effects except reduced gambling problems remained at the 6-month follow-up. Mediation results indicated that changes in perceived norms at 3 months mediated the intervention effects. Further, the intervention effects were moderated by self-identification with other student gamblers, suggesting that PNF worked better at reducing gambling for those who more strongly identified with other student gamblers.
Results support the use of PNF as a stand-alone brief intervention for at-risk gambling students. Extending this approach more broadly may provide an accessible, empirically supported gambling prevention option for universities and related institutions.