Alcohol warning labels have a limited effect on drinking behaviour, potentially because people devote minimal attention to them, researchers at the University of Liverpool have found. Authors report findings from two studies in which they measured the extent to which alcohol consumers attend to warning labels on alcohol packaging and identified whether increased attention to warning labels is associated with motivation to change drinking behaviour.
The first study of 60 participants used eye-tracking to measure visual attention to brand and health information on alcohol and soda containers. In the second study of 120 participants the researchers manipulated motivation to reduce drinking using an alcohol brief intervention (vs control intervention) and measured heavy drinkers’ attention to branding and warning labels with the same eye-tracking paradigm as in Study 1. Also, in a separate task, the participants’ attention was experimentally manipulated by drawing a brightly coloured border around health (or brand) information before measuring participants’ self-reported drinking intentions for the subsequent week.
The results of Study 1 showed that participants paid minimal attention to warning labels (7% of viewing time). Participants who were motivated to reduce drinking paid less attention to alcohol branding and alcohol warning labels. Results from Study 2 showed that the alcohol brief intervention decreased attention to branding compared to the control condition, but it did not affect attention to warning labels. Furthermore, the experimental manipulation of attention to health or brand information did not influence drinking intentions for the subsequent week.
Alcohol consumers allocate minimal attention to warning labels on alcohol packaging and even if their attention is directed to these warning labels, this has no impact on their drinking intentions. The lack of attention to warning labels, even among people who actively want to cut down, suggests that there is room for improvement in the content and design of health warnings on alcohol packaging, the researchers state.
Source: Alcohol consumers’ attention to warning labels and brand information on alcohol packaging: Findings from cross-sectional and experimental studies. Inge Kersbergen, Matt Field. BMC Public Health BMC series 201717:123 DOI: 10.1186/s12889-017-4055-8. Open access 26 January 2017.