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Motivating social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic: An online experiment. ESRI Working Paper No. 658 April 2020

Lunn, Peter D. and Timmons, Shane and Belton, Cameron A. and Barjahova, Martina and Julienn, Hannah and Lavin, Ciaran (2020) Motivating social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic: An online experiment. ESRI Working Paper No. 658 April 2020. [Working Paper]

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    Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic will save lives. We tested communication strategies to promote social distancing via an online experiment (N = 500) commissioned by Ireland’s Department of Health. A control group saw a current informational poster. Two treatment groups saw similar posters with messages that highlighted: (i) the risk of transmission to identifiable persons vulnerable to COVID-19; (ii) the exponential nature of transmission. We then measured judgements of behaviours previously identified by focus groups as “marginal” (meaning that people were not sure whether they were advisable, such meeting others outdoors, or visiting parents). We recorded intention to undertake behaviours and stated acceptability of behaviours. Our hypotheses, that both treatments would increase participants’ caution about marginal behaviours, were preregistered (i.e. lodged with an international organisation for open science before data collection). Results confirmed the hypotheses. The findings suggest that the thought of infecting vulnerable people or large numbers of people can motivate social distancing. This has implications for communications strategies. The study

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    Item Type: Working Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > public health policy (including global activities)
    Countries > Ireland
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Dublin > ESRI Working Papers
    Depositing User: Daniel Pennell
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 15 May 2020 17:58
    Number of Pages: 21
    Last Modified: 15 May 2020 17:58

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