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Prosociality predicts health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Author

Listed:
  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Duquette, Nicolas, 2020. "Heard immunity: effective persuasion for a future COVID-19 vaccine," SocArXiv jwvsp, Center for Open Science.
    2. Falco, Paolo & Zaccagni, Sarah, 2020. "Promoting social distancing in a pandemic: Beyond the good intentions," OSF Preprints a2nys, Center for Open Science.
    3. 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.
    4. Abel, Martin & Byker, Tanya & Carpenter, Jeffrey P., 2020. "Socially Optimal Mistakes? Debiasing COVID-19 Mortality Risk Perceptions and Prosocial Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 13560, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social preferences; health behavior; externalities; COVID-19;

    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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