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

See all articles by Jonathan D. Hall

Jonathan D. Hall

University of Toronto - Department of Economics; University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Joshua Madsen

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Date Written: September 10, 2021

Abstract

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

Hall, Jonathan D. and Madsen, Joshua, Can Behavioral Interventions Be Too Salient? Evidence From Traffic Safety Messages (September 10, 2021). Hall, Jonathan D., and Joshua M. Madsen. "Can behavioral interventions be too salient? Evidence from traffic safety messages." Science 376.6591 (2022): eabm3427., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3633014 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3633014

Jonathan D. Hall (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S3G7
Canada

University of Toronto - Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Joshua Madsen

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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