The effect of norm-based messages on reading and understanding COVID-19 pandemic response governmental rules

Bilancini, Ennio, Boncinelli, Leonardo, Capraro, Valerio ORCID logoORCID:, Celadin, Tatiana and Di Paolo, Roberto (2020) The effect of norm-based messages on reading and understanding COVID-19 pandemic response governmental rules. Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, 4 . pp. 45-55. ISSN 2572-8997 [Article]

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The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threatens the lives of millions of people around the world, making it the largest health threat in recent times. Billions of people around the world are asked to adhere to strict shelter-in-place rules, finalised to slow down the spread of the virus. Appeals and messages are being used by leaders and policy-makers to promote pandemic response. Given the stakes at play, it is thus important for social scientists to explore which messages are most effective in promoting pandemic response. In fact, some papers in the last month have explored the effect of several messages on people’s intentions to engage in pandemic response behaviour. In this paper, we make two contributions. First, we explore the effect of messages on people’s actual engagement, and not on intentions. Specifically, our dependent variables are the level of understanding of official COVID-19 pandemic response governmental informative panels, measured through comprehension questions, and the time spent on reading these rules. Second, we test a novel set of appeals built through the theory of norms. One message targets the personal norm (what people think is the right thing to do), one targets the descriptive norm (what people think others are doing), and one targets the injunctive norm (what people think others approve or disapprove of). Our experiment is conducted online with a representative (with respect to gender, age, and location) sample of Italians. Norms are made salient using a flier. We find that norm-based fliers had no effect on comprehension and on time spent on the panels. These results suggest that norm-based interventions through fliers have very little impact on people’s reading and understanding of COVID-19 pandemic response governmental rules.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: COVID-19 Special Issue
Keywords (uncontrolled): norm-based messages, nudging, health policy, pandemic response
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Economics
Item ID: 30720
Notes on copyright: Copyright © The Author (s)
The full text is included in this repository ( with permission confirmed on 23/08/20. The article is a published in the Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Vol. 4, COVID-19 Special Issue, 45-55, 2020
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Depositing User: Valerio Capraro
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2020 18:05
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 05:30

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