Can Self-Protective Behaviors Increase Unrealistic Optimism? Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Forthcoming

39 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2021

See all articles by Yan Vieites

Yan Vieites

FGV-EBAPE

Guilherme A. Ramos

FGV/EBAPE

Eduardo B. Andrade

Imperial College Business School

Carlos Pereira

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV)

Amanda Medeiros

FGV-EBAPE

Date Written: May 23, 2021

Abstract

People tend to believe they are more (less) likely to experience positive (negative) outcomes than similar others. While research has consistently shown that feeling unrealistically optimistic about future events influences the adoption of self-protective behaviors, much less is known about the opposite relationship. We address this gap by examining whether and how self-protective behaviors influence unrealistic optimism in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across two preregistered, high-powered experiments (N = 4,707), we document a generalized unrealistic optimism about the health risks associated with COVID-19. Critically, we show that prompting people to think about a precautionary behavior they often perform (i.e., mask wearing) magnifies this preexisting tendency. Egocentrism, but not self-enhancement and/or better-than-average effects, helps to explain the phenomenon. Theoretical contributions and substantive implications to health risk research and policy are discussed.

Note: Funding Statement: This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001.

Declaration of Interests: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval Statement: This project was approved by the CEPH / FGV review board.

Keywords: Unrealistic Optimism, Risk Perception, Self-Protective Behaviors, COVID-19, Preregistered

Suggested Citation

Vieites, Yan and A. Ramos, Guilherme and Andrade, Eduardo B. and Pereira, Carlos and Medeiros, Amanda, Can Self-Protective Behaviors Increase Unrealistic Optimism? Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic (May 23, 2021). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3852013 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3852013

Yan Vieites (Contact Author)

FGV-EBAPE ( email )

R. Jorn. Orlando Dantas, 30
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 22231-010
Brazil

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.yanvieites.com/

Guilherme A. Ramos

FGV/EBAPE ( email )

Rua Jornalista Orlando Dantas, 30
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 22231-010
Brazil

Eduardo B. Andrade

Imperial College Business School ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AZ, SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Carlos Pereira

Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) ( email )

R. Dr. Neto de Araujo 320 cj 1307
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 22250-900
Brazil

HOME PAGE: http://ebape.fgv.br/en/faculty-members/carlos-pereira

Amanda Medeiros

FGV-EBAPE ( email )

R. Jorn. Orlando Dantas, 30
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 22231-010
Brazil
2130832400 (Phone)
22231-010 (Fax)

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