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Ironic Consequences of Health Information

Educating students about the risks and associated harms of AOD use and abuse is a bedrock element of our prevention effort. We implicitly and explicitly assume that if we rationally put forth the options, students will make an “educated” decision, which will naturally be less risk prone.  Knowledge of risks will counteract the salient social and physiological positives of use.  Further, it is assumed that risk knowledge is at least benign, but usually helpful.  Recent research puts this assumption in doubt.

Read more: Ironic Consequences of Health Information

In Praise of the Ambiverted Peer

How do you pick your peer educators?  Summer is a time for our fall planning, and I’ve been thinking about how we select our peer educators.  Of course, those students with an interest in alcohol and drug prevention—or at least student behavioral health—meet the first criterion; but what’s next? Often it seems to also center on personality factors that we believe will make for an effective presenter.  Perhaps with a sales model in mind, we may believe that persuading students to change their attitudes and behaviors will require the salesperson personality: an extrovert. 

But new research calls into question the basic premise that extroverts make for better salespeople.  Wharton School researcher Adam Grant (2013) has published a study that demonstrated that sales success and extroversion follow an inverted U-shaped relationship.  He reviewed the checkered evidence that extroversion helps sales (turns out to only weakly correlate) and then analyzed the revenue brought in from a call center.  Strongly extroverted did no better than the weakest.  The sweet spot was those at 4.5 on a 7-point extroversion scale.  These mid-point people (called ambiverts) can switch modes from confident spokesperson to active listener.  The author posits that the overbearing nature of a strong extrovert can generate negative responses.  Of course, this jives well with anyone who detests shopping for a car.

And so this means…To the extent that we need peer health educators that have personalities that conform to a persuasion model of prevention, our best bet will be the ambiverts: too little confidence and they’ll fail to present with authority on sensitive topics; too much and they may appear dogmatic, arrogant and pushy.

If you have other personality traits that you think are critical to an effective peer health educator, join the discussion on Facebook.


Grant, A. M. (2013). Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal The Ambivert Advantage. Psychological Science, 24(6), 1024–1030.


Survey hints at what's to come

As we enter the final weeks of the academic year, I thought I would share a bit of research on the high school students who will be matriculating this fall. Consider this grist for your cognitive mill as you ponder next year's programming while relaxing on the warm sands of a California beach.

A new national survey (The Partnership at America and the MetLife Foundation, 2013) of students grades 9-12 was released last week.  It is a longitudinal study of teen alcohol and other drug use.  Its findings jive pretty well with the Monitoring The Future study.

Alcohol remains king
It appears that we are in an upward trend for teen alcohol use.  The downward trend from 2002 to 2007 gave rates moving from 60% to 51% reporting past-year alcohol use; since then there has been an almost annual increase to the 2012 level of 57%.  Teens' perception of parental permissiveness has also gone up: disapproval of drinking was 32% in 2010, 28% in 2012.

Read more: Survey hints at what's to come

Fatal Crashes Down: Progress Continues

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the positive news that fewer deaths occurred on our nation's roads in 2011 (NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2012a, 2012b).  A lower, but still depressingly high 32,367 people were killed in crashes in 2011.  That’s a 1.9% decrease from 2010, and represents the fewest fatalities since 1949.  When controlling for population growth and increased vehicle miles driven, the fatality rate is about a third what it was back in the early 1980s.

Drunk driving (or more precisely driving with a BAC=.08+) continues to account for a large proportion of the fatal crashes.  But those too declined by 2.5% and now account for 31% of the deaths.

Here are a few important national statics from the report:

Read more: Fatal Crashes Down: Progress Continues

Advances in Understanding Frankincense

Perhaps you’ve wondered what frankincense really is, and why it’s included in the list of items the Three Wise Men carried as gifts.  Well frankincense is indeed a type of incense, and had been used as a psychoactive drug since ancient times.  Coming from the Bosellia (or Frankincense) tree, the incense is the resin extracted from slits in the bark (Ratsch, 2005).  It was a

Read more: Advances in Understanding Frankincense