Can behavioral interventions be too salient? Evidence from traffic safety messages

Principal Investigator(s):

Joshua Madsen, Assistant Professor, Carlson School of Management

Project summary:

Although behavioral interventions are designed to seize attention, little consideration has been given to the costs of doing so. Researchers estimated these costs in the context of a safety campaign that--to encourage safe driving--displays traffic fatality counts on highway dynamic message signs for one week each month. The research team found that crashes increase statewide during campaign weeks, which is inconsistent with any benefits. Furthermore, these effects do not persist beyond campaign weeks. These results show that behavioral interventions--particularly negatively framed ones--can be too salient, crowding out more important considerations and causing interventions to backfire with costly consequences.

Project details:

  • Project number: 2022041
  • Start date: 01/2013
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow