Drinkers much less likely to notice responsible drinking messages in pub environment, says new study

Drinkers are much less likely to notice responsible drinking messages on posters displayed in a busy, cluttered pub environment than in a plain and simple room, show results of a study published today by psychologists at London South Bank University (LSBU) and Alcohol Research UK.

[Read the full report here]

Results of the research trial show that responsible drinking messages displayed on posters positioned inside LSBU’s dedicated ‘Pub-Lab’ research facility received only 16 per cent of the number of glances directed at the same poster when placed in a comparatively sparsely furnished, plain environment. On average, volunteer participants aimed nearly eight times as many glances at their drinks than at responsible drinking posters.

The research project, led by a team of psychologists at LSBU and funded by Alcohol Research UK, was conducted over an 18-month period from January 2015 to July 2016.

Over 100 volunteers participated in the trial which involved the use of state of the art eye-tracking technology (micro cameras mounted on spectacles) to measure how participants directed their visual attention when presented with either a responsible drinking message or a control poster. The experiment was conducted inside LSBU’s ‘Pub-Lab’ – a dedicated alcohol research facility designed to test the impact of physical context on human behaviour.

Dr Daniel Frings, Associate Professor of Psychology at London South Bank University, who led the study, said, “On average, our Pub-Lab volunteers aimed nearly eight times as many glances at their own drinks than at responsible drinking posters.

“This tendency is backed up by previous research in this area of human behavioural psychology which has suggested that displaying responsible drinking messages may not always be the most effective way to get people to drink in a more controlled manner.

”Our study goes further to reinforce that hunch by showing that posters in bars designed to warn drinkers about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption are much more likely to be completely ignored by them.  We found that most drinkers, especially heavier drinkers tend to allocate more of their attention to the beverages placed right in front of them.”

Dr James Nicholls, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Research UK, said, “While this study shows that posters received some attention in non-drinking environments, it is hard to prove that these have any measurable effect on levels of alcohol consumption.

“The findings raise further questions about the extent to which we can expect responsible drinking campaign posters or flyers to influence behaviour, especially when they are placed in environments where all the other visual cues are designed to encourage drinking.”

The research report ‘Evaluating the interactive effects of responsible drinking messages and attentional bias on actual drinking behaviours‘ is available here.

Ends

Notes to Editors:

  1. The study, entitled ‘Evaluating the interactive effects of responsible drinking messages and attentional bias on actual drinking behaviours’, was conducted by a team of psychologists from LSBU’s School of Applied Sciences: Dr Antony Moss, Director of Education and Student Experience, Ian Albery, Professor of Research, enterprise and Psychology and Dr Daniel Frings, Associate Professor of Psychology.
  2. London South Bank University (LSBU) is one of London’s largest and oldest universities. Since 1892, we have been providing vocationally-relevant, accredited and professionally recognised education which transforms lives, businesses and communities. London South Bank University, 90 London Road, London SE1 6LN /http://www.lsbu.ac.uk
  3. Alcohol Research UK is an independent charity working to reduce levels of alcohol-related harm by ensuring that policy and practice can always be developed on the basis of research-based evidence. It is a lead funder of high quality research into the causes, impact and prevention of alcohol-related harm and the only organisation exclusively dedicated to building an evidence base in this area.