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Based on the Transtheoretical Model, we expect readiness to change (RTC) to be predictive of actual substance-related behavior change, though this relationship is surprisingly modest. We assert that standard assessments of RTC do not require sufficient cognitive effort to obtain an accurate assessment. We expected that RTC scores are inflated (i.e., overestimated) under standard self-report conditions. To test this hypothesis, we compared RTC scores across three conditions: 1) standard low effort condition, 2) medium effort condition (had to select likes/dislikes of substance use, and negative consequences of changing one’s use), and 3) high effort condition (also provided text responses to how they would handle difficult situations related to changing their substance use). Using a college student sample recruited from a large southwestern university (current n=231 drinkers, 64.5% female), we conducted one-way ANOVAs with Tukey post-hoc comparisons to examine differences on two commonly used measures of readiness to change: The University of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA) scale and the Stages of Change Readiness and Treatment Eagerness Scale (SOCRATES). Across total scores/subscales, we did not find statistically significant differences across conditions; however, the patterns of small differences were opposite from what we predicted with the high effort condition associated with the highest RTC scores (d=.245). We explore the research/clinical implications for how validity of RTC scores are affected by level of cognitive effort surrounding change.


Poster presented at the Brain & Behavioral Health Research Day 2021



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