USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)

First Advisor

Thesis Director: Wendy Rote, Ph.D. Professor, College of Arts and Sciences


University of South Florida at St. Petersburg



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A film-aided intervention was created in an attempt to reduce motor vehicle screen use while driving by focusing drivers' attention on the moral (other-harm) compared to prudential (self-harm) aspects of such transgressions. It was hypothesized that focusing participants on the moral implications of engagement ofMotor Vehicle Screen Use would elicit empathy-related guilt and lead to a reduction in the behavior. Participants in the first wave (70.8% female; 28.8% male) were asked to imagine that they engaged in MVSU and had a head-on collision. They were then randomly assigned into one of three conditions, where either they (!-prudential condition) or the other passenger (2-moral condition) were severely injured. A third group (3) with no collision was included for control. MVSU behavior and attitudes were measured during the initial survey and MVSU behavior was measured again one week later. Results indicated an overall reduction in MVSU over time but this did not vary by condition, eluding to a possible Question-Behavior Effect. Analyses of potential moderators demonstrated that the effectiveness ofthe intervention did not depend upon personal traits, including perspective taking, empathetic concern, guilt proneness, nor moral identity. The intervention also did not impact participants' views of the acceptability, morality, or riskiness of moving MVSU. It did, however, impact participants' expectations about their future behavior, such that participants in both experimental conditions expected that the intervention would reduce their MVSU more than did control participants. Nevertheless, reflecting the (lack of) impact of the intervention on actual driving behavior, participants' perceptions of the interventions' impact on their MVSU one week later did not differ by condition. The lack of intervention effects could be due to a lack of personalization in the intervention or an underestimation of importance placed on benefits received from MVSU by drivers.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Honors Program University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

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