Social Question

mattbrowne's avatar

Don't you DARE - What are good examples of common sense approaches that were found to be ineffective or even counterproductive?

Asked by mattbrowne (31719points) February 4th, 2012

In his book ‘Redirect’, social psychologist Timothy D. Wilson mentions DARE, which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and which is used in 75% of all US school districts and has spread to 40 countries, including Germany. My wife mentioned policemen visiting her school, giving talks intended to prevent students from using drugs. To me the whole DARE concept makes a lot of sense and I find it puzzling that numerous studies have shown that the DARE approach is rather ineffective. Perhaps in even counterproductive in some parts. Billions and billions of funds are still being spent on DARE.

Instead of DARE, Wilson recommends the LST approach (life skills training), which focuses on self-management and social skills including dealing with peer pressure.

Do you know of any other common sense approaches that turned out to be ineffective? Or that might turn out to be ineffective if scientific studies were conducted to measure their effectiveness?

What is your personal experience with DARE?

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43 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Increasing tax rates doesn’t always increase tax revenues. A lower tax rate can often generate the same revenue as a high tax rate. Voodoo econmics.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, increasing tax rates doesn’t always increase tax revenues, but sometimes it does. It has to be done smartly. Increasing debt is no solution either and cutting spending does have limitations.

gorillapaws's avatar

The Monty Hall Problem falls into this category I think. I still don’t believe the answer and think an evil genius is messing with my mind every time I see a computer simulation being done to prove it.

Game theory has shown other examples of this, where people will give up a lot more value just to punish someone else who screwed you over than is rational to do.

Another example is that people are willing to drive 4 miles to save $5 on a grossly overpriced piece of candy at the next gas station down the road, but wouldn’t dream of making the same trip to save $10 on a $1000 suit. Rational analysis says that either making that trip is worth $5 to you or not, but we think relatively instead of in the absolute costs.

ragingloli's avatar

That lowering taxes improves the economy. Seems to make sense if you do not really think about it.

thorninmud's avatar

There’s an article in the latest New Yorker challenging the effectiveness of “brainstorming”. Brainstorming has become universally accepted as a technique for generating new ideas, but there is plenty of evidence from research that contradicts some of its core principles. Particularly counterproductive, it turns out, is the precept that ideas generated by a brainstorming group mustn’t be subject to criticism.

mattbrowne's avatar

@gorillapaws – Yes, the car and the two goats seem as puzzling as the birthday paradox!

mattbrowne's avatar

@thorninmud – I think brainstorming is powerful when followed by an examination of a crowd which includes criticism and the opportunity to modify initial ideas.

bkcunningham's avatar

@mattbrowne, I love your question. The first thing that comes to my mind, is the war on poverty. It was a costly, ineffective mistake.

wundayatta's avatar

And likewise, the war on drugs is a colossal waste of time and money. Just like DARE. Educate our kids; don’t scare them. Of course, wars are a lot sexier than education. You get better uniforms, too!

@thorninmud I read that article about brainstorming—well, half of it, anyway. I raised it in my dance group last night, since someone (a composer) brought up how the dance made her stop criticizing and judging herself.

I said that that was an interesting comment for me given the role that criticism plays in my thinking process. I was trained to be extremely critical from an early age. Yet, in music or dance, we tend not to use our symbolic thinking. Can you criticise without symbols? Is there a role for the critical mind when other parts of your mind are in charge? Does employing the critical mind make it impossible for the other parts of the mind to be heard?

I think not.

thorninmud's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes, that’s the accepted way of looking at the process—that the ideas should be generated in a non-critical atmosphere so that people don’t feel inhibited in proposing ideas, and then the output of the brainstorming session then gets filtered through a critical process. Makes sense, right? But the gist of the research is that this is not as effective as generating the ideas in a context where they are immediately subject to challenge, criticism and debate.

@wundayatta The non-judgmental and the critical complement each other. They’re best run in parallel, not in series or in isolation. I think you’d affirm from your own experience that some people have a great deal of difficulty not letting the critical faculty dominate, to the point that the non-judgmental becomes virtually inaccessible. That’s a miserable state of affairs. It may take some kind of radical “breakthrough” experience in which the critical faculty gets shut down momentarily before the non-judgmental can be discerned. But that non-discriminating level is, by its nature, not a functional one. It’s the critical faculty that gets stuff done.

thorninmud's avatar

@mattbrowne Just to add that this finding agrees well with other research that shows that creativity is actually enhanced by having to work amidst constraints and obstacles.

Coloma's avatar

Well…first of all, whenever we declare “war” on anything, it never works. Fighting fire with fire is never a solid approach. Then, there is this….just to insert, as always, the 6 on one hand, half a dozen on the other dichotomy. lol

mattbrowne's avatar

@bkcunningham – I agree. A “war” on poverty doesn’t make sense. Low corruption levels, good widespread education and equal opportunities do. Several decades ago Nigeria and South Korea were both poor. Nigeria still is, and South Korea isn’t. A lot of poor countries could learn from this.

mattbrowne's avatar

@thorninmud – I see your point. I’d argue though that ‘best ideas’ might not always be the only criterion. In companies we also need thriving and supportive teams. Especially in times of crises this can be essential. It’s not always the company with the top idea that survives. So even if creatitive gets enhanced by allowing interruptions and criticism right from the very start this might not be the optimal approach. Has this been investigated?

mattbrowne's avatar

Has anyone heard of DARE, by the way?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Coloma – Just read the article. A surprising result. I would have expected that certain drugs like cocain are used by more intelligent people.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, my daughter went through the program in middle school.It’s a noble effort but as with any program, it will not be effective for everyone based on the extre
me diversity of individual make up, peer pressure, curiosity. It’s certainly worthy, but not foolproof.

Coloma's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes, it surprised me too, infact, at first, I thought “they have to be high!” lol

Mariah's avatar

@mattbrowne We had DARE at my elementary school. I was a pretty abnormal kid so unfortunately my experiences aren’t representative. But it worked on me, probably because at that age I had an almost compulsive need to obey authority. In fact, until about age 14 I had it in my head that drug use and even alcohol use was immoral and actually reflected badly on anybody who partook. These days I have no qualms with victimless crimes so it’s kind of mind-bending for me to think that I used to feel that way.

@gorillapaws I finally understand the Monty Hall problem after reading a very good explanation. If you’d like, I’ll convey it.

amujinx's avatar

I’m with @Mariah, I had the DARE program in elementary school, and I was pretty good about not doing drugs for quite a while. In fact I had one friend of mine who told me that he didn’t believe in peer pressure until he met me since I always turned down everything other than alcohol. Of course this made people try to push more things on me. I’m by no means saying I’ve never tried anything, but I did so of my own accord, no one else’s. I flipped from being for the war on drugs in my very early 20’s to against it once I did my own research and thinking about it.

Kardamom's avatar

The idea that locking up certain criminals for a limited period of time, then simply letting them out, without extensive psycological counseling, appropriate education and life skills training or job skills training, will reduce the potential for those criminals to re-offend.

Certain criminals (rapists and child molesters comes to mind) should simply never be let out. Most studies seem to indicate that those people can’t be fixed. Other criminals (based not only on their particular crime, but also based on each individual criminal’s personality/intelligence/potential to learn) need to be given the tools to succeed in a positive manner on the outside world. Without those tools for success, they’re just sending more hardened more angry criminals back into society.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Mariah and @amujinx – The question is: Are you sure DARE was your main influence? Maybe other factors in your lives have been far more important to take the routes you chose. According to Wilson it doesn’t matter whether students are exposed to DARE or not. And the program does cost a lot of money.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Kardamom – What about all the young rapists who spend 20 years in prison and never commit any crime after they served their sentence?

Aethelflaed's avatar

Marriage incentives. Really, if you don’t want me marrying someone I’m not totally in love with and then divorcing them when things hit the rocks, stop giving me all these financial and legal upsides to being married.

I had DARE, and when I heard that studies say it’s ineffective, my response was “no fucking shit”. It didn’t make me obey authority any more, but rather taught me that police officers (mine was taught by a cop, don’t know if that’s standard) are patronizing, infantilizing, and will lie to me. It also relied on really unrealistic levels and scenarios of peer-pressure (I’ve never, ever had someone pressure me to get high with them so they wouldn’t feel like such a loser; most potheads are just fine smoking alone, it’s just more fun if someone joins in. I have had a teeny bit of peer pressure to get higher than I am, but that’s not the same thing), and didn’t talk about how shaming someone who smokes a joint is its own form of peer pressure. But mostly, it was just so hyperbolic. Smoke a joint once, you’ll immediately be hooked, lose all your friends and family within a week, never ever get a job, and go to jail and die within a year. And then when that doesn’t happen, I went, “wait, so the person handing me the joint knows more about drugs than the cop? And they don’t treat me like I’m a moron? And they aren’t lying to me? Then, hell, even if some of their info is incorrect, I should clearly go to them for drug info over those DARE people”. Plus, this idea of “just say no”, when there’s no other part of life where we “just say no” – it promotes a speech pattern we don’t like. So, yeah, Nancy Reagan, this is your mess.

Kardamom's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t think I’ve ever heard of those people. Most of the studies I’ve read seem to indicate that rapists keep it up. But either way, I really don’t care if they stay in jail forever. The crime is so horrendous that the victims will suffer for the rest of their lives, so I think it’s an OK trade-off. I don’t believe in the concept paying your debt to society. Just because you’re a good boy for 15 years in prison, does not a debt repay. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

But I also don’t think that criminals in jail should be tortured either, they need to be put to good use. There is plenty of work that they can choose to do (or not if they’d rather sit in their cells by themself with NO TV and no books or computer access if they want). They can teach other inmates how to read, they can manufacture products (that are deemed acceptable to the government, the prison officials and society) that are useful inside and outside the prison, they can farm (on prison grounds of course, to help provide food for the inmates) they can be taught how to make musical instruments and how to play, thus becoming entertainment for the inmates, they can be taught how to act and put on plays and make sets, also more free entertainment for the inmates. Sometimes it’s better to keep these people in jail forever, but give them something useful and worthwhile to do while they’re in there.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Kardamom Do you have any sources for these incurable rapists? I’d love to read more.

amujinx's avatar

@mattbrowne My point was more that DARE doesn’t work, as someone who has been through it. My opinions as a teen were influenced by my parents and the friends I had in school, not the program.

bkcunningham's avatar

I’ve heard of the DARE program, @mattbrowne. I know several county sheriff’s deputies who were the DARE mascot. It is still around. It is used by some 80 percent of the school districts in America and in 54 additional countries worldwide. In my opinion, there are two major issues with the program.

One, after the first year, the localities have to come up with their own funding and it use to mean applying for grants and/or matching funding. Sometimes this means many localities use the program to get funding and then fight to keep the funding when those administering the program aren’t effective or interested any longer in the message and children or have burnt out. Two, they program ended for kids at too early an age. It should have, and if I’m not mistaken is now being, adapted to continue into middle and high school.

Kardamom's avatar

@Aethelflaed I found a pretty good series of studies in this article. You are probably right about my statement saying that most rapists cannot be rehabilitated, it is possible (but in my opinion, not worth the money, trouble or agony it might cause the victim).

This particular article is mores specifically about recidivism rates rather than treatments and re-habilitation or whether it works to prevent recidivism. This article does point out that some of the statistics about rapists and recidivism may be skewed due to the fact that many people who are raped, do not report the crime. Other factors play into a rapists recidivism rate too, such as age, prior convictions, drug abuse etc. So even the studies, cited in this article point out that it is sometimes harder to predict recidivism rates in rapists, because of all of the other extenuating factors.

Here is another study that talks about the recidivism rate amongst rapists (skip down to the section about rapists). In this study it says that rapists are unique amongst other criminals (and are distinct from pedophile rapists) in that they tend to engage in other crimes too, wheras most other types of criminals do not also engage in rape. So part of the problem with rehabilitation is the fact that they’ve got other criminally minded activities going on that hinder their treatment. In other words, there’s more stuff to account for and fix. But the study does go onto say that some treatments seem to work, in at least some of the cases, but the first article, from above, also states that the time period from which the recidivism rates are taken is often too short, so they’re still unsure of the real recidivism rate.

Anyway, I apologize for saying that no rapists can be rehabilitated, but it’s still my opinion that even if they only raped one time, and there might be potential for rehabilitation, I simply don’t think it’s worth letting those people out of jail. It’s too risky, and just the fact that letting them out re-victimizes the victim is a bad thing, in and of itself, and not fair to the victim. My general opinion about rapists is that I don’t care if they have to stay locked up forever.

The other problem is that I don’t think rapists or most other hard criminals get any kind of treatment, not even considering whether any treatment they might get is effective.

This Article discusses the idea that there are many types of subsets of rapists, which also makes treating men who rape, more difficult. First they have to identify what kind of rapist they’re dealing with (and some might cross-over into different subsets) and others, even if they have been “categorized” would still have to be treated differently than other “similarly categorized” rapists due to their motivation to rape. There’s so many different (awful) things going on with rapists that I really do believe that it’s very difficult (maybe not impossible) to treat them to prevent recidivism, but I just don’t think it’s worth it, mostly for the sanity of the original victim and for the perceived safety by society at large.

YARNLADY's avatar

Common sense – hitting/spanking children makes them behave
Long run consequence – they learn that hitting is the way to solve their problems, and it passes from generation to generation.

Blondesjon's avatar


Tell folks that they absolutely can’t do something and even those that never have come out of the woodwork to give it a shot.

augustlan's avatar

My kids had the DARE program in school, and found it fairly laughable. I don’t think they’re any less (or more) inclined to try drugs after it.

Similarly, the Abstinence Only approach to sex education doesn’t seem to work.

cazzie's avatar

I have heard of the DARE program. A few of my friends are in the teaching biz in the US. Thinking that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime is an example, as is keeping sex education out of schools so children don’t practice promiscuity. Speaking of those types of programs, that ‘marrying your father’ BS and chastity rings do not work either.

bkcunningham's avatar

I never thought the death penalty was suppose to be a deterrent. It is a form of punishment and a consequence if you are found guilty to certain crimes in jurisdictions that uphold the punishment.

cazzie's avatar

@bkcunningham Well, you say tomato I say tomato.

HungryGuy's avatar

Things like DARE and overall being Tough On Crime are just another attempt by our corporate overlords to put as many people in prison as they can so they can make them into slaves.

This is yet another reason why all the corporate executives (even before lawyers and politicians and life insurance salesmen) will be the first up against the wall and shot when the revolution comes.

wundayatta's avatar

What always amazes me is that adults think that their kids have somehow lost the critical capabilities their parents had at the same age. Like our kids are all innocent when we were the most cynical teens ever. When we were teens, we wanted to be treated like adults. We wanted respect. We wanted the truth. We didn’t get it.

Now, when we have teens, it seems to so many people parent the same way our parents did. They give their teens the same pablum we had to eat. But I can’t see that it goes down any easier with our kids.

Personally, I prefer to tell the kids the truth. I discuss my drug experiences with my kids. I don’t act all pure. I even tell them I think these were not bad experiences. But I don’t know what they are doing at my kids’ school, because the kids are very anti-drug. They won’t even taste my wine. Well, who knows. Maybe there will still be a chance for ideas of moderation and proper kinds of mind-bending experiences.

Paradox25's avatar

I’ll just stick to using the DARE example here. It should have been so obvious that anti-drug programs and the threats from drug enforcement officials do not work. They especially will not work if we are not tackling the base issues that cause kids to use drugs to begin with. The original assumption has always been drug use + kids = social problems, and for the most part I disagree withy this. The formula should be inverted to social problems + kids = drug use.

Kids also see adults openly using alcohol and tobacco products and let’s face it, kids aren’t stupid and they fully well know that both alcohol and tobacco are drugs as well. There are several different reasons why kids may start using drugs and if they want to get high then they will either way. We can’t intimidate people into not using drugs since people have to want to be drug free by their own free will. We can only guide people (including kids) into making the right choices by their own free will, not force.

YARNLADY's avatar

To all the above, when D A R E was first began, people really were NOT aware of the drug issues. You have no idea how uninformed we were in those days.

mattbrowne's avatar

Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights with me!

What seems very clear here is that social intervention programs need to be properly tested before their introduction on a large scale. Another very negative example is

“Debriefings are used by grief counselors and disaster workers as part of an emergency intervention to help people who have recently experienced major loss or suffering. These cases include hurricanes, earthquakes, school shootings, and other situations that involve fear, injury, extreme discomfort, property damage, or loss of friends and loved ones. The goal of the debriefing is to reduce the likelihood of post traumatic stress disorder, or other psychological problems.”

It makes situations worse not better according to scientific studies.

bolwerk's avatar

I can’t speak to others, but anti-drug programs like DARE and McGruff the Crime Dog seemed to insult my intelligence. And I was – I dunno, 10-years-old? – when I was exposed to those things. That’s a pretty young age to feel that you’re being insulted by the stupidity being presented to you. There is probably a forbidden fruit aspect to them too. Plus, they’re patently dishonest, equating drugs that are relatively mild or even healthy in modest doses (e.g., alcohol, pot) with things like crystal meth. By the time I was well into middle school (age 13–14 in the States), most of my friends had tried alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes without any problems. A few others did have problems, and abstinence-obsessed DARE didn’t equip them to handle those problems. Sex education was similar; we were basically told that if we had sex, we had a good chance of getting AIDS and dying.

@YARNLADY may be right about how DARE raised awareness about drugs, but it also spread a lot of misinformation. So do other sacrosanct groups with prohibitionist agendas, like MADD or AA. In fact, I really never trusted groups or individuals that are regarded as saintly. They’re usually hiding a veneer of wackiness (ever take a closer look at Gandhi?), if not outright authoritarianism.

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