Red and Unread: Unheeded Warnings

Do you read the warning labels on potentially hazardous products? Plenty of people don’t, in part because manufacturers conscientiously give the warning a conspicuous space of its own on the package. According to research conducted at the University of Michigan, ‘The current practice of separating warnings from the directions for use increases the chance that people will filter out the safety messages printed on the label.’ People are more goal-oriented than safety-oriented when using such products as drain cleaner, says researcher J. Paul Frantz, so ‘they tend to scan the label focusing on the portion that helps them complete the task and filter out other information.’ In an experiment, Frantz found that incorporating warnings into a label’s directions for use dramatically increased the percentage of people who read the information, from 48% to 92%.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)