Flaminio Squazzoni and Federico Bianchi from BEHAVE have co-authored a study entitled “Dangerous liaisons: an online experiment on the role of scientific experts and politicians in ensuring public support for anti-COVID measures” which has been recently published in the Royal Society Open Science. The study presents an online experiment run during the first wave of the COVID pandemic in Italy. The experiment examines the effect of public communication on norm compliance and pro-social motivations. The article can be accessed here.
Abstract. The effectiveness of public health measures to prevent COVID-19 contagion has required less vulnerable citizens to pay an individual cost in terms of personal liberty infringement to protect more vulnerable groups. However, the close relationship between scientific experts and politicians in providing information on COVID-19 measures makes it difficult to understand which communication source was more effective in increasing pro-social behaviour. Here, we present an online experiment performed in May 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic on 1131 adult residents in Lombardy, Italy, one of the world’s hardest hit regions. Results showed that when scientific experts recommended anti-contagion measures, participants were more sensitive to pro-social motivations, unlike whenever these measures were recommended by politicians and scientific experts together. Our findings suggest the importance of trusted sources in public communication during a pandemic.