Psychological distance intervention reminders reduce alcohol consumption frequency in daily life


Modifying behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, is difficult. Creating psychological distance between unhealthy triggers and one’s present experience can make it easier to change. Using two multisite, randomized experiments, we examine whether theory-driven strategies to create psychological distance—mindfulness and perspective-taking—can change drinking among two samples of young adults without alcohol dependence via a 28-day smartphone intervention (Study 1, N = 108 participants, 5492 observations; Study 2, N=218 participants, 9994 observations). Study 2 presents a close replication with a fully remote delivery during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During weeks when they received daily smartphone reminders, individuals in the psychological distance interventions drank less frequently than control weeks, and less than control participants. Reminders reduced drinking frequency but did not impact amount. Smartphone-based mindfulness and perspective-taking interventions to create psychological distance, can change behavior. However, this approach requires frequent reminders, which can be delivered successfully via mobile phones.