Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The spotlight effect of speeding

I’m sure many of you have passed the driving test and are familiar with the speed limit signs. How many of you have the experience of speeding driving while completely ignoring the speed limit? When I drove on campus last week, I realised that I were more aware of the digital speed limit sign rather than the normal speed limit sign. It detected my speed and displayed it on the board. Each time when I see a digital speed limit sign, I consciously slow down as I don’t want to be displayed in red (i.e. red digit signals the excessive speed).

This can be explained by the spotlight effect. Digit speed limit signs works for changing drivers’ speeding behaviour because people pay much attention on other’s opinion. They think that others are close paying attention to what they are doing. In other words, the driver thinks that people on the street are aware of his speeding if the digit sign signals the red and consequently he/she will reduce the speed to conform social norms.

Gilovich and his colleagues (2000) found that participants overestimated the prominence of their positive and negative utterance when they had group discussions. This provide an evidence of the spotlight effect - people overestimate the extent to which their actions are aware by others.


Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology78, 211.

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