Sarah C. Boyle

Sarah C. Boyle
Loyola Marymount University | LMU · Department of Psychology

PhD

About

47
Publications
6,526
Reads
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682
Citations
Citations since 2017
35 Research Items
625 Citations
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Introduction
My work aims to leverage social media and gamification in order to increase the efficacy of popular personal normative feedback substance use interventions and extend this strategy to other high risk, but hard to reach groups. My broader interests include LGBTQ health, social media-based influences on health behavior, gamification of eHealth interventions, & hybrid trial designs evaluating preventive eHealth interventions.
Additional affiliations
July 2014 - present
Loyola Marymount University
Position
  • Co-Director/ Senior Research Associate
April 2009 - present
Claremont Graduate University
Position
  • Data Manager/Analyst
November 2006 - August 2008
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Position
  • Data Analyst/ Evaluation Coordinator

Publications

Publications (47)
Article
Full-text available
Despite speculation that peers’ alcohol-related content on social media sites (SMS) may influence the alcohol use behaviors of SMS frequenting college students, this relationship has not been investigated longitudinally. The current prospective study assesses the relationship between exposure to peers’ alcohol-related SMS content and later-drinking...
Article
Gamified interventions exploit the motivational characteristics of a game in order to provide prevention information and promote behavior change. Despite the modest effect sizes observed in increasingly popular web-based personalized normative feedback (PNF) alcohol interventions for college students, previous research has yet to consider how gamif...
Article
Although sexual minority stress remains the dominant perspective for understanding disproportionate substance use among lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) populations, social norms are among the most predictive and commonly targeted substance use antecedents in other high-risk groups. This scoping review seeks to bring clarity to the body of norms-foc...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Sexual minority women disproportionately engage in heavy drinking and shoulder the burden of alcohol dependence. Although several intensive interventions are being developed to meet the needs of treatment-seeking sexual minority women, there remains a lack of preventive interventions to reduce drinking and its consequences among women n...
Article
Stigma-related stress and inflated perceptions of substance use norms are positioned in the literature as theoretically distinct explanations for disproportionate substance use among sexual minorities. As research has yet to examine how these variables may interact in an intervention context, this study examined the impact of recent experiences wit...
Article
While adolescents and underage emerging adults typically obtain alcohol from social sources (e.g., parents, friends, parties), taking alcohol from the home without permission is not well understood. The current study investigated plausible individual characteristics associated with taking alcohol from one’s parents’ home without permission and asso...
Preprint
Parents of young adults may approve of their child drinking in lower risk drinking situations (LRDS) because they believe it will prevent their child from drinking in more risky ways. However, when young adults believe their parents approves of drinking in LRDS they experience more negative alcohol consequences, not less. A plausible explanation fo...
Article
Full-text available
Public health researchers are increasingly interested in the potential relationships between social media (SM) use, well-being, and health behavior among adolescents. However, most research has assessed daily SM time via self-report survey questions, despite a lack of clarity around the accuracy of such reports given the current tendency of youth t...
Article
Previous research has shown a reliable association between social media (SM) use and drinking among college students. However, most studies have investigated SM behaviors (e.g., time spent on a platform, posting frequency) in isolation and on a single site. While some have studied multiple SM behaviors across platforms using person-centered approac...
Article
Background: The purpose of this study was to address a dearth in the literature on non-response bias in parent-based interventions (PBIs) by investigating parenting constructs that might be associated with whether a parent volunteers to participate in a no-incentive college drinking PBI. Method: Incoming first-year students (N = 386) completed an o...
Article
Parent-based interventions (PBIs) and living at home with one’s parents both have been shown to mitigate alcohol risk associated with the first year of college. The current study extends these findings by examining the independent and interactive effects of these two constructs on first-year drinking. The sample included 82 parent-student dyads. Pa...
Preprint
Building on Junco’s (2013) study examining the accuracy of self-reported computer-specific time on Facebook, the current study investigates the accuracy of self-reported time on multiple social media (SM) platforms across multiple electronic devices and evaluates whether reporting accuracy is systematically associated with participant sex, individu...
Preprint
Social media (SM) users are a combination of several behaviors across platforms. Patterns of SM use across platforms may be a better indicator of risky drinking than individual behaviors or sets of behaviors examined previously. This longitudinal study addressed this gap in the literature using latent profile analysis (LPA) to identify subpopulatio...
Preprint
Selection effects have been found in health intervention research but have not yet been examined in parent-based alcohol interventions (PBIs). Investigating such effects has been difficult because previous PBI research has only invited specific parents to participate and offered them compensation. The current study investigated selection effects us...
Preprint
BACKGROUND Sexual minority women (SMW) disproportionately engage in heavy drinking and shoulder the burden of alcohol dependence. Although several intensive interventions are being developed to meet the needs of treatment-seeking SMW, there remains a lack of preventative interventions able to reduce drinking and consequences among women not yet mot...
Article
BACKROUND Research suggests that the social media platforms popular on college campuses may reflect, reinforce, and even exacerbate heavy drinking practices among students. The present study was designed to directly examine: (1) whether exposure to alcohol-related content on social media diminishes the efficacy of a traditional web-based personaliz...
Article
Background: The transition to college is an important developmental phase, usually met with increased social desirability, access to alcohol, and new peer groups. Recently, research has utilized social media as a predictor of events during college, but few have assessed how social media can influence alcohol use during the transition to college. M...
Article
Objective: Previous research has linked social media involvement and alcohol use among college students. However, this literature has been limited by self-report measures of social media use, cross-sectional data, inadequate attention to potential moderators and mediators, and unclear implications for interventions. To improve and extend this work...
Article
Previous research suggests that exposure to alcohol-related content on social media sites (SMSs) may inflate perceptions of drinking norms, thereby increasing drinking among college students and potentially undermining popular social norms-based alcohol interventions. However, prior research on exposure has used subjective measures of alcohol expos...
Article
Full-text available
Background Sexual minority women are more likely to drink alcohol, engage in heavy drinking, and experience alcohol-related problems than heterosexual women. However, culturally tailored interventions for this population have been slow to emerge. Objective This type 1 effectiveness-implementation trial examines the feasibility and efficacy of a gam...
Article
Objective This study explored the burgeoning youth practice of possessing a fake, secondary Instagram account known as a “Finsta” in relation to exposure to alcohol-related content and college drinking. Participants First-year university students with at least a primary Instagram account (N = 296) completed online surveys. Method Surveys assessed...
Preprint
BACKGROUND Sexual minority women (SMW) are more likely to drink alcohol, engage in heavy drinking, and experience alcohol-related problems than are heterosexual women. Yet, to date, culturally tailored interventions for this population have been slow to emerge. OBJECTIVE This Type I Effectiveness/Implementation Trial examines the feasibility and e...
Poster
Full-text available
Much research informed by the sexual minority stress model has linked stigma experienced at individual and interpersonal levels to increased alcohol use among sexual minority women. However, other recent work has adopted a social norms perspective and identified that (mis)perceptions of sexual-identity specific peer drinking norms are related to fr...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Urban trails are a useful resource to promote physical activity. This study identified features of urban trails that correlated with trail use. Methods: Multiuse urban trails were selected in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles. An audit of each trail was completed using the Systematic Pedestrian and Cyclist Environmental Scan for Trail...
Article
Alcohol-related problems disproportionately impact sexual minority women. Recent research suggests that lesbian-identified women overestimate peer drinking norms and therefore, personalized normative feedback (PNF) may be an appropriate and efficacious intervention strategy for reducing alcohol-related risks in this population. To inform the develo...
Article
Virtual copresence, or the sense of being with others in an online space, is a feeling induced on many apps and websites through user avatars and browsable profile pages. Despite the small/modest effect sizes observed in popular web-based personalized normative feedback (PNF) alcohol interventions for college students, previous research has yet to...
Poster
Full-text available
The current study is the first to examine the burgeoning youth practice of possessing a “Finsta” social media account to display alcohol use. A combination of the words “fake” and “Instagram,” a “Finsta,” refers to a second personal Instagram account with increased privacy settings that limits followers to only close friends, and contains explicit...
Poster
Full-text available
PURPOSE: Extant research has implicated undergraduates’ social media (SM) use in their alcohol use trajectories. However, reliance on self-report measures of SM use represents a major limitation as the accuracy with which students self-report their SM use is unclear. The current study examined self-reported versus actual time on SM, as well as the...
Poster
Full-text available
Alcohol-related problems disproportionately impact lesbian-identified women. Recent research suggests that lesbians overestimate peer drinking norms and therefore, personalized normative feedback may be an appropriate and efficacious intervention strategy for reducing alcohol-related risks in this population. To inform the development and packaging...
Presentation
This talk, delivered 6/23/19 at the annual meeting of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, cross-sectionally examines relationships between stigma, sexual minority-specific drinking norms, and alcohol use in a sample of sexual minority women. Severe stigma experiences were found to both inflate perceptions of peer drinking norm...
Article
Objective: Despite its prominence in the health communication literature, psychological reactance has rarely been considered as a factor that may undermine web-based Personalized Normative Feedback (PNF) alcohol interventions for college students. This study built on recent gamification work to examine how chance-based uncertainty, a popular game...
Article
Objective: Osteoporosis is a costly bone disease characterized by low bone mineral density (BMD) that primarily affects postmenopausal women. One factor that may lead to osteoporosis is a failure to reach peak bone mass (PBM) in early adulthood. In older adults and animal models, heavy episodic drinking (HED) has been found to predict failure to r...
Article
Objective: Examine 1) whether observed social reinforcements (i.e., "likes") received by peers' alcohol-related social media posts are related to first-year college students' perceptions of peer approval for risky drinking behaviors; and 2) whether associations are moderated by students' alcohol use status. Participants: First-year university st...
Article
Our recent work (Boyle, Earle, LaBrie, & Smith, 2017) showed that the efficacy of personalized normative feedback-based (PNF) college alcohol interventions can be improved through the addition of gamified elements including points, chance, competition, and personal avatars. However, participants in that study were compensated with subject pool cred...
Article
Studies examining representations of college drinking on social media have almost exclusively focused on Facebook. However, recent research suggests college students may be more influenced by peers' alcohol-related posts on Instagram and Snapchat, two image-based platforms popular among this demographic. One potential explanation for this different...
Article
A randomized controlled trial tested an interactive normative feedback-based intervention—codenamed“FITSTART”—delivered to groups of 50–100 parents of matriculating college students. The 60-minsession motivated parents to alter their alcohol-related communication by correcting normative misperceptions (e.g., about how approving other parents are of...
Article
Full-text available
Abstract This study examines the potential utility of Social Norms-based approaches to reduce heavy alcohol use in lesbian community settings. In a sample of 278 Southern Californian lesbians recruited from social media networks to complete an online survey, the majority of participants overestimated the quantity of alcohol consumed by their lesbia...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Prepartying, or drinking before an event where more alcohol may or may not be consumed, has been positioned in the literature as a behavior engaged in by heavy drinkers. However, recent findings suggest that prepartying may confer distinct risks, potentially causing students to become heavier drinkers over time. Objectives: The goals...
Article
Full-text available
Our study investigated the importance of the lesbian community and the perceived fit of personal characteristics and behavior with the norms of this community as predictors of depression and anxiety among Young Sexual Minority Women (YSMW) aged 18–35 years. YSMW (n ¼ 504) completed an online survey in which they reported their degree of identificat...
Conference Paper
Introduction: Impulsivity has been associated with a number of negative health behaviors including substance use (Acton, 2003), overeating (Braet, Claus, Verbeken, & Van Vlierberghe, 2007) and obesity (Nederkoorna, Braetb, Van Eijsa, Tanghec,& Jansena, 2006). Several types of impulsivity exist as well as various measures of these different types. A...
Conference Paper
Introduction: Adolescent obesity is an important public health issue, and a key factor that contributes to the problem is overeating (eating more than required for homeostasis). Appetitive behaviors such as over consumption of sweet and fatty foods may in part result from an inability to control one’s behavior when encountering rewards in the envir...
Conference Paper
Introduction: Eating behaviors may become habitual such that certain cues trigger the behavior without conscious deliberation on the action. Cue-behavior links such as these could be important targets for interventions designed to improve dietary habits. Cues associated with consuming sweetened drinks and snacks among adolescents were identified in...
Conference Paper
Introduction: Family characteristics such as parenting style and family functioning (e.g., cohesion, flexibility) have been associated with adolescent dietary behavior. The present study examines the association of family influences with Body Mass Index (BMI), binge eating and obesity-related dietary behaviors (e.g., sugar sweetened beverages). Fam...

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Projects

Projects (4)
Project
Despite concerted efforts, high-risk drinking remains a significant problem on college campuses. Further, the transition into college is an identified critical period in which risky drinking patterns are often established and serious negative consequences occur. Colleges commonly employ Normative Re-Education (NR), a promising intervention approach focused on correcting over-estimated peer drinking norms, to reduce alcohol risk in first-year students. However, the most cost-effective and scalable NR strategies, including web-based personalized normative feedback (PNF) interventions, have yielded only modest reductions in drinking. Several issues have been identified that may explain these relatively small effects. For example, students often question the credibility of the normative data, the content fails to capture students’ attention, and heavy drinkers often react to feedback defensively. These issues are not surprising as, unlike social media and digital gaming applications that capture and sustain young adults’ attention, web-based PNF formats lack the sophisticated digital graphics, social interactivity, and other dynamic features to which students have become accustomed. Further, colleges often make participation mandatory or offer incentives to enroll students in current interventions, likely a detriment to student motivation and thus intervention effectiveness. Our new gamified, social media-inspired, incognito approach to PNF addresses these issues by delivering alcohol PNF within a fun smartphone app that tests first-year students’ perceptions of college life and classmates’ attitudes and behaviors on a weekly basis across the first semester of college. Integrating features from popular social media platforms and evidence-based digital game mechanics (e.g., co-presence, a wager-based system of points, and chance-based uncertainty), the app also features enhanced PNF and includes several novel features informed by longstanding cognitive and social psychological theories. Five pilot studies support the ability of this gamified, app-based, incognito alcohol intervention strategy to engage first-year college students and reduce drinking more effectively than existing NR approaches. The proposed research will evaluate the gamified app as a low cost, self-sustaining, alcohol intervention approach in a large multi-site (LMU and UH) randomized controlled trial with three cohorts of N=400 first-year students per site (N=2,400 total). Student participants will play the app weekly over the 12 weeks of their first semester in college. Additionally, students not enrolled in the RCT study will also play throughout the 12-week period (≈300 per site per cohort; ≈1800 total), testing their knowledge and understanding of peer behavior, receiving feedback, and competing for prizes with the RCT participants. Each week, all players will answer questions of interest on three topics about first-year students’ attitudes and behaviors (alcohol and partying, health, drinking-related consequences, sex, studying, etc.) generated by the student players. They will also guess how “typical” students answered the same questions and wager points on how close to the correct answer (group norm) their guess is. Further, they will rate the behaviors of others and, then, submit and vote on questions for subsequent rounds. At the end of each week, players will receive enhanced PNF feedback on two of the topics, as well as receive feedback on how other preferred-sex students rated their individual behavior (preferred-sex injunctive norms). Innovatively, the study’s design, which randomizes RCT participants to one of four levels of alcohol feedback (0%, 25%, 50%, & 75%), will evaluate the effectiveness of alcohol feedback delivered in the app relative to feedback on control topics and identify the optimal doses of on-going alcohol feedback to be delivered to different types of student drinkers (nondrinker, light drinker, moderate to heavy drinker). Among the non-RCT additional players on each campus, confidential user data will evaluate the sustainability of app play in an ecologically valid setting consistent with how colleges might cost-effectively offer this game in the future, in the absence of individual incentives. As a naturalistic intervention able to organically attract student participation at minimal cost, this smartphone application represents a potentially powerful new paradigm for college alcohol prevention by integrating social media and gamified elements to deliver credible, engaging and impactful content.
Project
This project will refine and extend our successful parent-based social norms intervention for reducing risky college drinking (Feedback Intervention Targeting Student Transitions and Risk Trajectories; NIAAA grant R21 AA021870). We aim to adapt the parent-based intervention (PBI) for online rather than in-person delivery, significantly enhance the content, and conduct a feasibility trial. Pilot work by the HeadsUP Team has revealed that, like students, parents display predictable normative misperceptions. Specifically, parents overestimate how approving other parents are of drinking and underestimate how often other parents engage with their students about drinking. As predicted by social norms theory, these false beliefs are associated with parents displaying more approving attitudes themselves and communicating less frequently. Correcting these norms should motivate parents to proactively engage their child in risk-reducing directions. Thus, our original PBI delivered to parents in person at a single summer orientation session combined a social norms feedback component with informational material (“tips”). While the effects on weekly drinking, HED, and non-drinker alcohol use initiation were robust 1-month into college (3-months post intervention), they were no longer present near the end of the second semester. Additionally, the original PBI’s usefulness as a universal approach was limited because it was delivered to parent groups on-campus during pre-college orientation sessions and many colleges do not hold summer orientations and/or lack the resources to administer the session. The current project seeks to refine and adapt this intervention using a new cutting-edge modality developed by our team in extensive pilot work conducted during the past two years. Drawing from the computer science literature on virtual co-presence, we have been able to create an online environment that mimics the effects of a live group social norms session. Applied to the PBI, this technology will make the program much easier to disseminate. Further, it will allow us to easily extend the PBI, delivering additional content to parents in additional modules across students’ first year of college. This proposal has two main Aims accomplished in two distinct phases. Phase I will employ a mixed-method participatory design approach to digital product development with several sets of parent focus groups first querying parents’ normative attitudes and behaviors related to parent-student alcohol communication, as well as their preferences for web-based platform features, graphics, layouts, and notifications. Then, a longitudinal survey study will follow 500 parents of incoming first-year students through their students’ first-semester to document norms and identify additional parent-child communication concerns that emerge during the transition to college. A final set of parent focus groups will examine the completed web-based parent platform for feedback and ease-of-use. Importantly, parent focus group and survey data will together inform the development of intervention content and features. Phase 1 will result in a fully-functional, user-friendly, web-based FITSTART+ platform carefully tailored to the needs and desires of parents’ of first-year college students (AIM 1). In Phase II, the project will assess the feasibility and efficacy of the completed FITSTART+ intervention through a pilot trial (AIM 2).
Project
This NIAAA funded R21 project seeks to narrow the disparity in alcohol intervention research by examining an innovative gamified, incognito, personalized normative feedback (PNF) intervention designed to reduce drinking among sexual minority women found to frequent popular social media sites (i.e., Facebook, Instagram) and overestimate norms related to peers’ general alcohol use and drinking to cope with sexual minority stigma. Sexual identity specific descriptive drinking and stigma-coping norms are delivered to sexual minority women within an online competition designed to test lesbian, bisexual, and queer female stereotypes. Leveraging game mechanics informed by Self-Determination Theory, the competition’s progressive web app incorporates social media-inspired browse-able player profiles to increase believability and appeal as well as a wager-based system of points, leaderboards, and prizes to increase motivation and reward accurate peer perceptions. In addition, to decrease defensive reactions, question and feedback topics are ostensibly selected by chance in the game with treatment PNF on alcohol use and stigma-coping behaviors delivered alongside feedback on control topics of high interest to community members (e.g., stereotypes pertaining to style, relationships, sex, etc.). Appeal and credibility are also gained through sponsorship and promotion of the game by four collaborating community organizations trusted as sources for health and social information by sexual minority women. After recruiting 2,105 lesbian, bisexual, and queer-identified women ages 21 to 55 years to take part in the competition and play 2 initial filler rounds, a sub-sample of 500 moderate to heavy drinkers were randomized to receive 1 of 3 unique sequences of feedback (i.e., Alcohol & Stigma-Coping, Alcohol & Control, or Control topics only) over 4 additional monthly rounds of play. Participants wagered points, received PNF on assigned topics, and competed for cash prizes as they tested the accuracy of their perceptions about the alcohol use, stigma-coping behaviors, health behaviors, future plans, style preferences, relationships, and sex lives of other lesbian, bisexual, and queer-identified women, and discovered how their own behaviors compare to actual group norms. Analyses currently being conducted will evaluate whether PNF on alcohol use corrected drinking norms and reduced sexual minority women’s alcohol consumption and negative consequences relative to PNF on control topics, examine whether providing PNF on stigma-coping behaviors in addition to alcohol use further reduced alcohol use and consequences beyond standard alcohol PNF, and identify mediators and moderators of intervention effectiveness.