Social distance and texting while driving: A behavioral economic analysis of social discounting

Anne M. Foreman, Yusuke Hayashi, Jonathan E. Friedel, Oliver Wirth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Texting while driving is a dangerous behavior. Drivers continue to engage in the behavior despite knowing its risks, and the factors responsible for the decision to text while driving are poorly understood. This study examined how the relationship of the sender to the driver, in addition to the delay to the destination, may affect the decision to text while driving with the use of a social- and delay-discounting paradigm. Methods: Ninety-four (N = 94) undergraduate students completed a hypothetical social- and delay-discounting task in which they rated their likelihood of replying to a text message immediately versus waiting to reply until arriving at a destination. The social distance of the sender and the delay to the destination were varied across trials. Results: For both social and delay discounting, the likelihood of replying and waiting, respectively, decreased as a function of social distance and delay to the destination. Participants were more likely to text while driving as the social distance of the sender decreased and the delay to the destination increased. Social discounting varied inversely as a function of delay to the destination: The shorter the delay to the destination, the greater the social discounting. Conclusion: The findings indicate that social distance of the sender is an important factor involved in the decision to text while driving. Participants were more likely to reply to a text while driving if the sender was less socially distant. When they were closer to their destination, they were less likely to reply to socially distant people than those closer to them. The roles that social consequences play in drivers’ decision making to text while driving are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-707
Number of pages6
JournalTraffic Injury Prevention
Volume20
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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