Fatalism, beliefs, and behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Journal of Risk and Uncertainty(2022)

Cited 74|Views10
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Abstract
Little is known about how people’s beliefs concerning the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) influence their behavior. To shed light on this, we conduct an online experiment ( n = 3,610 ) with US and UK residents. Participants are randomly allocated to a control group or to one of two treatment groups. The treatment groups are shown upper- or lower-bound expert estimates of the infectiousness of the virus. We present three main empirical findings. First, individuals dramatically overestimate the dangerousness and infectiousness of COVID-19 relative to expert opinion. Second, providing people with expert information partially corrects their beliefs about the virus. Third, the more infectious people believe that COVID-19 is, the less willing they are to take protective measures, a finding we dub the “fatalism effect”. We develop a formal model that can explain the fatalism effect and discuss its implications for optimal policy during the pandemic.
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Key words
COVID-19, Beliefs, Online experiment, Fatalism, I12, C26, D91
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