Using Consequence Messaging to Improve Understanding of Social Security

Published: 2018
Project ID: UM18-09


In this proposal, we develop “consequence messaging” — a new behaviorally motivated communication strategy in which we use vignettes to explain the consequences of decisions to people. The vignettes take the form of videos. We propose to study two related areas where consequence messaging may improve understanding and decision-making: valuing annuities and Social Security claiming decisions. We will evaluate the impact of consequence messaging by conducting a small-scale survey on a representative sample of Americans. In an online study, we will randomly assign respondents to no vignette or a video vignette (also called a randomized controlled trial). Then we will assess the impact on understanding and decision-making through a survey. We will assess understanding by asking factual questions, and assess decision-making by asking respondents to provide advice to a hypothetical person facing various decisions about annuities and Social Security claiming.