Newswise — Have you heard of the CNN effect? There is also a “fake ID effect:” This is when a fake piece of identification facilitates later harms. Researchers already know that underage college students who obtain and use false identification are at risk for negative outcomes. This study investigated the strength of the fake ID effect to determine whether having a fake ID is a signal of being at risk or if it actually increases the likelihood that a student will suffer alcohol-related problems.
In a sample of more than 5,000 college students, individuals with a fake ID were systematically matched with individuals without a fake ID. The groups were compared on five outcome measures: frequent binge drinking, alcohol-related problems, arrests, marijuana use, and hard drug use.
Results showed that the “fake ID effect” was driven both by traits linked to acquiring a fake ID and the alcohol access associated with having a fake ID. The authors speculate that fake IDs may provide impulsive individuals with additional means and opportunity for problematic behaviors they might not have otherwise engaged in. The authors also suggest that a focus be placed less less on punitive actions taken after the fact and more on preventative measures such as decreasing the likelihood that at-risk students will obtain a fake ID in the first place.