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Team colors on cans change perceptions of alcohol risks, MU study finds
Date:11/10/2010

COLUMBIA, Mo. Underage and heavy drinking on college campuses continue to be issues for college administrators. While some campuses, such as the University of Missouri, have made strides in efforts to reduce heavy drinking on campus, administrators are continually trying to educate students about the risks of excessive drinking. Now, two MU psychologists have found that students who viewed images of beer cans packaged and displayed in university colors believed that drinking beer was less dangerous than those students who saw images of regular beer cans.

"In this research, we wanted to determine if certain marketing strategies had an effect on whether individuals felt that a certain behavior in this case, drinking beer was more or less dangerous," said Chris Loersch, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "We found that when people identify themselves with a certain group, such as a college or university, and if that group 'endorses' a product, people assume the product is safe."

According to Loersch, previous studies had investigated how belonging to social groups can affect the behaviors or perceptions of individuals. Loersch said that groups can be close-knit, such as family relationships, or they can be broader, such as individuals who all attend the same university. In either case, people tend to feel a sense of trust and safety within their own groups, or what psychologists call "ingroups."

In the study, Loersch and Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychological sciences at MU, found that undergraduate participants who were briefly exposed to beer packaged in MU colors perceived beer drinking as safer than did participants who had seen images of standard beer cans. These feelings of safety existed even when participants were subliminally exposed to the word "beer," providing evidence that the fan cans affect people's unconscious responses toward beer
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Contact: Christian Basi
BasiC@missouri.edu
573-882-4430
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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