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Fatalism, Beliefs, and Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Author

Listed:
  • Jesper Akesson
  • Sam Ashworth-Hayes
  • Robert Hahn
  • Robert D. Metcalfe
  • Itzhak Rasooly

Abstract

Little is known about how people’s beliefs concerning the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) influence their behavior. To shed light on this, we conduct an online experiment (n = 3,610) with US and UK residents. Participants are randomly allocated to a control group or to one of two treatment groups. The treatment groups are shown upperor lower-bound expert estimates of the infectiousness of the virus. We present three main empirical findings. First, individuals dramatically overestimate the dangerousness and infectiousness of COVID-19 relative to expert opinion. Second, providing people with expert information partially corrects their beliefs about the virus. Third, the more infectious people believe that COVID-19 is, the less willing they are to take protective measures, a finding we dub the “fatalism effect”. We develop a formal model that can explain the fatalism effect and discuss its implications for optimal policy during the pandemic.

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  • Jesper Akesson & Sam Ashworth-Hayes & Robert Hahn & Robert D. Metcalfe & Itzhak Rasooly, 2020. "Fatalism, Beliefs, and Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic," NBER Working Papers 27245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27245
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    1. Duquette, Nicolas, 2020. "Heard immunity: effective persuasion for a future COVID-19 vaccine," SocArXiv jwvsp, Center for Open Science.
    2. Kai Barron & Charles D.H. Parry & Debbie Bradshaw & Rob Dorrington & Pam Groenewald & Ria Laubscher & Richard Matzopoulos, 2022. "Alcohol, Violence and Injury-Induced Mortality: Evidence from a Modern-Day Prohibition," CESifo Working Paper Series 9595, CESifo.
    3. Sadish, D & Adhvaryu, Achyuta & Nyshadham, Anant, 2021. "(Mis)information and anxiety: Evidence from a randomized Covid-19 information campaign," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C).
    4. Georgia Michailidou & Hande Erkut, 2022. "Lie O'Clock: Experimental Evidence on Intertemporal Lying Preferences," Working Papers 20220076, New York University Abu Dhabi, Department of Social Science, revised Apr 2022.
    5. Hung‐Hao Chang & Chad D. Meyerhoefer, 2021. "COVID‐19 and the Demand for Online Food Shopping Services: Empirical Evidence from Taiwan," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 103(2), pages 448-465, March.
    6. Ori Heffetz & Guy Ishai, 2021. "Which Beliefs? Behavior-Predictive Beliefs are Inconsistent with Information-Based Beliefs: Evidence from COVID-19," NBER Working Papers 29452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Gutierrez, Emilio & Rubli, Adrian & Tavares, Tiago, 2022. "Information and behavioral responses during a pandemic: Evidence from delays in Covid-19 death reports," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 154(C).
    8. Clemens Fuest & Lea Immel & Florian Neumeier & Andreas Peichl, 2021. "Does Expert Information Affect Citizens' Attitudes toward Corona Policies? Evidence from Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 9024, CESifo.
    9. Abel, Martin & Byker, Tanya & Carpenter, Jeffrey, 2021. "Socially optimal mistakes? debiasing COVID-19 mortality risk perceptions and prosocial behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 183(C), pages 456-480.
    10. Barron, Kai & Parry, Charles D. H. & Bradshaw, Debbie & Dorrington, Rob & Groenewald, Pam & Laubscher, Ria & Matzopoulos, Richard, 2022. "Alcohol, violence and injury-induced mortality: Evidence from a modern-day prohibition," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Economics of Change SP II 2022-301, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    11. Biroli, Pietro & Bosworth, Steven J. & Della Giusta, Marina & Di Girolamo, Amalia & Jaworska, Sylvia & Vollen, Jeremy, 2020. "Framing the Predicted Impacts of COVID-19 Prophylactic Measures in Terms of Lives Saved Rather Than Deaths Is More Effective for Older People," IZA Discussion Papers 13753, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Janssen, Aljoscha & Shapiro, Matthew H., 2021. "Does precise case disclosure limit precautionary behavior? Evidence from COVID-19 in Singapore," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 700-714.

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