Can Behavioral Interventions Be Too Salient? Evidence From Traffic Safety Messages
Hall, Jonathan D., and Joshua M. Madsen. "Can behavioral interventions be too salient? Evidence from traffic safety messages." Science 376.6591 (2022): eabm3427.
100 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2020 Last revised: 10 Jun 2022
Date Written: September 10, 2021
While behavioral interventions are designed to seize attention, little consideration has been given to the costs of doing so. We estimate these costs in the context of a highway safety campaign that displays traffic fatality counts one week each month. We find that this intervention increases the number of crashes, with the effect dissipating over 7 km. The effects do not persist beyond the treated weeks. Crashes increase statewide during treated weeks, inconsistent with any benefits. Our results show that behavioral interventions can be too salient, crowding out more important considerations and causing interventions to backfire with costly consequences.
Keywords: behavioral intervention, nudges, salience, cognitive load, traffic safety, DMS, digital message sign
JEL Classification: D83, D91, H43, R41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation