Estimating perceptions of the relative COVID risk of different social-distancing behaviors from respondents’ pairwise assessments

Ori Heffetz*, Matthew Rabin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

How do people compare the effectiveness of different social-distancing behaviors in avoiding the spread of viral infection? During the COVID pandemic, we showed 676 online respondents in the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel 30 pairs of brief videos of acquaintances meeting. We asked respondents to indicate which video from each pair depicted greater risk of COVID infection. Their choices imply that on average, respondents considered talking 14 min longer to be as risky as standing 1 foot closer, being indoors as standing 3 feet closer, being exposed to coughs or sneezes as 3 to 4 ft closer, greeting with a hug as 7 ft closer, and with a handshake as 5 ft closer. Respondents considered properly masking as protecting the wearer and interlocutor equally, removing the mask entirely or only when talking as standing 4 to 5 ft closer but wearing it under the nose as only 1 to 2 ft closer. We provide weaker evidence on beliefs about the interaction effects of different behaviors. In a more limited, ex post analysis, we find little evidence of differences in beliefs across subpopulations.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2219599120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume120
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 14 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 the Author(s).

Keywords

  • belief elicitation
  • pairwise choice
  • perceived health-risk tradeoffs
  • risk perceptions
  • social distance

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