This interesting small experiment randomly assigned 101 U.K. college students with excessive drinking to one of four conditions. In each condition, the students received one message a week for four weeks. The messages varied by condition:

  1. official alcohol consumption guidelines
  2.  how their consumption compared to official guidelines
  3. how their consumption compared to the sample mean
  4. where their consumption ranked in the sample

The results indicate that “Participants informed of how their consumption ranked were more likely to request information (p < .01, OR = 6.0) and tended to request a greater number of types of information (p < .01, Wald = 7.17) than those in other conditions.”

The full article, “Brief report: Improving social norms interventions: Rank-framing increases excessive alcohol drinkers’ information-seeking” by Michael J. Taylor PhD, Ivo Vlaev PhD, John Maltby PhD, Gordon D. A. Brown PhD & Alex M. Wood PhD” is available online.