Expectations, Reference Points, and Compliance with Covid-19 Social Distancing Measures
38 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020 Last revised: 27 Jun 2021
Date Written: March 2020
We surveyed representative samples of Italian residents at three critical points in the COVID-19 pandemic, to test whether and how intentions to comply with social-isolation restrictions respond to the duration of their possible extension. Individuals reported being more likely to reduce, and less likely to increase, their self-isolation effort if negatively surprised by a given hypothetical extension (i.e., if the extension is longer than what they expected), whereas positive surprises had no impact. These results are consistent with reference-dependent preferences, with individual expectations serving as a reference point, and loss aversion. Our findings indicate that public authorities should carefully manage expectations about policy measures and account for behavioral reactions to deviations from previous announcements.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation