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When behavioural science can make a difference in times of COVID-19

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Document pages: 27 pages

Abstract: In a large study that involved 2637 participants recruited from a representative UK and US sample, we tested the influence of four behavioural interventions (versus control) on a range of behaviours important for reducing the spread of COVID-19 a day after the interventions were administered. Even if people largely complied with social distancing measures, our analyses showed that for certain subgroups of the population the interventions made a positive difference. More specifically, for those who started practising social distancing relatively recently, an information-based intervention increased general compliance with social distancing and reduced both the number of times people went out and the number of hours they spent outside. However, for people who started practising social distancing relatively early, the interventions tended to backfire and, in some cases, reduced compliance with social distancing. Overall, this research has various policy implications and shows that, although behavioural interventions can positively impact compliance with social distancing, their effect may depend on personal circumstances.

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