Confounding variables of the week.

Via Devour, I saw this heart-warming video:

And it looks like a great idea.  I’d love to see it implemented all over the place.  But the suggestion in the video that it reduces speeding is … challenging, unless there were cameras set up in in other places that we didn’t see.  The implication is that the lottery (the “fun”) caused a reduction in speeding, but the drivers who sped were being punished by receiving a speeding ticket.  So, assuming the reduction in speed is real and not a fluke, there’s 4 plausible scenarios:

  1. The reduction in speeding was just an artifact of the bright sign that said “Hey, there’s a speeding camera here.”  We know that the simple act of observation can change people’s behaviour, and maybe that happened here.
  2. The reduction in speeding was due solely to the punishment of receiving (or the prospect of receiving) a speeding ticket.
  3. The reduction in speeding was due to the reward of being entered into the lottery.
  4. The reduction in speeding was due to some combination of the previous three variables.

I’d love to see this studied a little more rigorously;  have some signs without cameras, have some signs that just send tickets, have some signs that just enter into the lottery, have some tickets sent from hidden cameras, have some entries sent by hidden cameras, and so on.  With a proper design, it should be possible to tease these variables apart, though (in fairness) it would be a laborious process.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could prove that fun makes people speed less?

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