Expectations, Reference Points, and Compliance with Covid-19 Social Distancing Measures

38 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020 Last revised: 27 Jun 2021

See all articles by Guglielmo Briscese

Guglielmo Briscese

University of Chicago

Nicola Lacetera

University of Toronto - Strategic Management; University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mario Macis

Johns Hopkins University - Carey Business School; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mirco Tonin

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano; IZA; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2020

Abstract

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

Briscese, Guglielmo and Lacetera, Nicola and Macis, Mario and Tonin, Mirco, Expectations, Reference Points, and Compliance with Covid-19 Social Distancing Measures (March 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w26916, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3563984

Guglielmo Briscese (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

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Nicola Lacetera

University of Toronto - Strategic Management ( email )

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University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Mario Macis

Johns Hopkins University - Carey Business School ( email )

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Mirco Tonin

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano ( email )

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