Part 2: The Amorality of Drunk Driving

August 13, 2012 BY danariely

I want to share with you what appears to me like one of the most ill-advised anti-Drunk Driving campaigns ever created. Ironically, I was walking across the Duke quad on my way to the social psychology building when I passed these ads that so blatantly disregard basic social psychology.

The anti-Drunk Driving ads featured famous celebrities in mug shots and with tag lines such as “Billy Joe supports DUI” (lead singer of Green Day) and “Flo Rida supports DUI” (popular hip hop artist). Most of these were celebrities I personally liked, though there were a few I disliked (such as Paris Hilton).

Quick social psychology quiz! “If a celebrity who you think is the coolest person on the planet is doing something, will telling you about it reduce your likelihood to do it?” No. My immediate response to the Billy Joe ad was to defend my high school hero and downplay the moral wrongness of his drunk driving offense. For some people, these ads might even have made drunk driving seem like a rebellious way to connect with these celebrities.

If you want to reduce illegal alcoholic behavior, then you need to pair the behavior with an outgroup or person one does not want to associated with. This is what I think this campaign may have been trying to go for on some level (e.g. Paris Hilton) but failed to do so. By comparison, Wharton Professor Jonah Berger succeeded at this strategy. Together with his colleagues, he put posters up in undergraduate dorms that associated heavy alcohol consumption with graduate students. Since undergraduates generally wish not to be associated with graduate students, undergraduates’ heavy alcoholic consumption dropped. It is comforting to know that my graduate student outgroup can cause some good in this world.

See you next week for Part 3 of the Amorality of Drunk Driving.

~Troy Campbell~