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Prosociality predicts health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Author

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  • Pol Campos-Mercade
  • Armando N. Meier
  • Florian H. Schneider
  • Erik Wengström

Abstract

Socially responsible behavior is crucial for slowing the spread of infectious diseases. However, economic and epidemiological models of disease transmission abstract from prosocial motivations as a driver of behaviors that impact the health of others. In an incentivized study, we show that a large majority of people are very reluctant to put others at risk for their personal benefit. Moreover, this experimental measure of prosociality predicts health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, measured in a separate and ostensibly unrelated study with the same people. Prosocial individuals are more likely to follow physical distancing guidelines, stay home when sick, and buy face masks. We also find that prosociality measured two years before the pandemic predicts health behaviors during the pandemic. Our findings indicate that prosociality is a stable, long-term predictor of policy-relevant behaviors, suggesting that the impact of policies on a population may depend on the degree of prosociality.

Suggested Citation

  • Pol Campos-Mercade & Armando N. Meier & Florian H. Schneider & Erik Wengström, 2020. "Prosociality predicts health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic," ECON - Working Papers 346, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:346
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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. Rebecca Albrecht & Jana B. Jarecki & Dominik S. Meier & Jörg Rieskamp, 2021. "Risk preferences and risk perception affect the acceptance of digital contact tracing," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 8(1), pages 1-9, December.
    3. Ketki Sheth & Greg C. Wright, 2020. "The usual suspects: do risk tolerance, altruism, and health predict the response to COVID-19?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 1041-1052, December.
    4. Asaria, Miqdad & Costa-Font, Joan & Cowell, Frank A., 2021. "How Does Exposure to COVID-19 Influence Health and Income Inequality Aversion?," IZA Discussion Papers 14103, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Falco, Paolo & Zaccagni, Sarah, 2020. "Promoting social distancing in a pandemic: Beyond the good intentions," OSF Preprints a2nys, Center for Open Science.
    6. Ennio Bilancini & Leonardo Boncinelli & Valerio Capraro & Roberto Di Paolo, 2020. "The effect of norm-based messages on reading and understanding COVID-19 pandemic response governmental rules," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 4(S), pages 45-55, June.
    7. Andersson, Ola & Campos-Mercade, Pol & Meier, Armando N. & Wengström, Erik, 2020. "Anticipation of COVID-19 Vaccines Reduces Social Distancing," Working Papers 2020:29, Lund University, Department of Economics.
    8. Lata Gangadharan & Tarun Jain & Pushkar Maitra & Joe Vecci, 2021. "Lab-in-the-Field Experiments: Perspectives from Research on Gender," Monash Economics Working Papers 2021-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    9. Laura Alfaro & Ester Faia & Nora Lamersdorf & Farzad Saidi, 2021. "Health Externalities and Policy: The Role of Social Preferences," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 109, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    10. SeEun Jung & Sang-Hyun Kim, 2020. "Managing the Public Health Risks in the Time of COVID-19," Working papers 2020rwp-181, Yonsei University, Yonsei Economics Research Institute.
    11. Schunk, Daniel & Wagner, Valentin, 2021. "What determines the willingness to sanction violations of newly introduced social norms: Personality traits or economic preferences? evidence from the COVID-19 crisis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 93(C).
    12. Daniel Schunk & Valentin Wagner, 2020. "What Determines the Enforcement of Newly Introduced Social Norms: Personality Traits or Economic Preferences? Evidence from the COVID-19 Crisis," Working Papers 2024, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.
    13. Valerio Capraro & Hélène Barcelo, 2020. "The effect of messaging and gender on intentions to wear a face covering to slow down COVID-19 transmission," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 4(S2), pages 45-55, December.
    14. Müller, Stephan & Rau, Holger A., 2021. "Economic preferences and compliance in the social stress test of the COVID-19 crisis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 194(C).
    15. Shusaku Sasaki & Hirofumi Kurokawa & Fumio Ohtake, 2021. "Effective but fragile? Responses to repeated nudge-based messages for preventing the spread of COVID-19 infection," The Japanese Economic Review, Springer, vol. 72(3), pages 371-408, July.
    16. 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.
    17. Christina Gravert & Kai Barron & Mette Trier Damgaard & Lisa Norrgren, 2020. "Time Preferences and Medication Adherence: A Field Experiment with Pregnant Women in South Africa," CEBI working paper series 20-29, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. The Center for Economic Behavior and Inequality (CEBI).
    18. Fallucchi, Francesco & Görges, Luise & Machado, Joël & Pieters, Arne & Suhrcke, Marc, 2021. "How to make universal, voluntary testing for COVID-19 work? A behavioural economics perspective," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 125(8), pages 972-980.
    19. Rehse, Dominik & Tremöhlen, Felix, 2020. "Fostering participation in digital public health interventions: The case of digital contact tracing," ZEW Discussion Papers 20-076, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    20. Fabrice Etilé & Pierre-Yves Geoffard, 2020. "Anxiety Increases the Willingness the Willingness to Be Exposed to Covid-19 Risk among Young Adults in France," PSE Working Papers halshs-03066539, HAL.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social preferences; health behavior; externalities; COVID-19;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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