Wednesday, July 4, 2007

responsiveness to noble and ignoble appeals

australia has a reputation for producing particularly nasty anti-speeding public service announcements. newsweek's kendall hill reports on a new campaign with a lighter touch:

When you first read the slogan, SPEEDING: NO ONE THINKS BIG OF YOU, you might think it was a reminder that people think poorly of those who break the law. Think again. This new road-safety campaign, launched in Australia last week, is aimed a bit more below the belt—by suggesting those men who speed have small penises. In the television and cinema advertisements, young "hoons"—Aussie-speak for speeding or reckless drivers—are mocked by unimpressed women who wave their little fingers at the drivers in a parody of their manhood.

nice. my reading of the literature leaves me a bit skeptical that any PSAs could alter long-term behavior, especially among hoons. yes, crack cocaine use dropped when kids learned that it wasn't cool, but they didn't need a television ad to convey the message. still, i'm intrigued by comparisons between appeals to our nobler impulses and appeals to rationality or superficiality. the latter seem to hit us where we really live, especially when supported by good science. messages showing how smoking gives you wrinkles or shrinks your manhood might thus be more effective than messages about, say, the deleterious effects of secondary smoke on your loved ones.

watching both ads, i can't help but think about an experiment comparing changes in driving behavior among dudes exposed to pinkie-wagging and dudes exposed to bloody bodies in the ditch. two questions: (1) which approach, if any, would be more effective in the short- and longer-terms? and, (2) is there a functional equivalent to pinkie-wagging that would deter all those female speeders racing past me?

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