Nudge in the time of coronavirus: Compliance to behavioural messages during crisis

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Susanne Hume
Peter John
Michael Sanders
Emma Stockdale


nudge, nudge plus, coronavirus, social norms


Successful responses to the coronavirus pandemic require those without COVID-19 and asymptomatic individuals to comply with a range of government guidelines. As nudges have been widely found to be effective at increasing compliance to prosocial behaviours in many contexts, how good are they for the COVID policy toolkit? In particular, is more of a reflective response–nudge plus— needed as well as classic nudges? In an online experiment with 1,500 people, we show that social norms and portrayal of the victim do not work on their own, but when the victim is combined with the more reflective task of carrying out a writing task to a relative there are impacts on intentions to comply with the guidelines. After two weeks, however, these intentions do not persist. There is much work to do when designing nudges in the context of COVID-19 and other public health pandemics to ensure persistence.


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