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Faculty of Economics

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Barak, D., Gallo, E., Rong, K., Tang, K. and Du, W.

Experience of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan leads to a lasting increase in social distancing

Scientific Reports

Vol. 12 no. 18457 (2022)

Abstract: On 11th Jan 2020, the first COVID-19 related death was confirmed in Wuhan, Hubei. The Chinese government responded to the outbreak with a lockdown that impacted most residents of Hubei province and lasted for almost three months. At the time, the lockdown was the strictest both within China and worldwide. Using an interactive web-based experiment conducted half a year after the lockdown with participants from 11 Chinese provinces, we investigate the behavioral effects of this ‘shock’ event experienced by the population of Hubei. We find that both one’s place of residence and the strictness of lockdown measures in their province are robust predictors of individual social distancing behavior. Further, we observe that informational messages are effective at increasing compliance with social distancing throughout China, whereas fines for noncompliance work better within Hubei province relative to the rest of the country. We also report that residents of Hubei increase their propensity to social distance when exposed to social environments characterized by the presence of a superspreader, while the effect is not present outside of the province. Our results appear to be specific to the context of COVID-19 and are not explained by general differences in risk attitudes and social preferences.

Author links: Edoardo Gallo  

Publisher's Link: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-23019-w



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