To reduce the spread of Covid-19, governments around the world recommended or required minimum physical distancing between individuals, as well as either mandating or recommending the use of face coverings (masks) in certain circumstances. When multiple risk reduction activities can be adopted, people may engage in risk compensation. They may respond to reduced risk due to one activity by increasing risk due to another. We tested for risk compensation related to mask usage during the Covid-19 pandemic in two online experiments that investigated whether either wearing a mask or seeing others wearing masks reduced physical distancing. We presented participants with stylized images of everyday scenarios involving themselves with or without a mask and a stranger with or without a mask. For each scenario, participants indicated the minimum distance they would keep from the stranger. Consistent with risk compensation, we found that participants indicated they would stand, sit or walk closer to the stranger when either of them was wearing a mask. This form of risk compensation was stronger for those who believed masks were effective at preventing catching or spreading Covid-19, and for younger (18-40 years) compared to older (over 65 years) participants.
Details: OSF Preprints Working Paper 2020
Authors: Ashley Luckman, Hossam Zeitoun, Andrea Isoni, Graham Loomes, Ivo Vlaev, Nattavudh Powdthavee, Daniel Read
Following a press release issued by Warwick Business School, this research was reported in a couple of media outlets. Daniel Read and Ivo Vlaev were interviewed by Sky News, Bloomberg, the Guardian and Russian Today. The paper was also shared with the Cabinet Office, NHS England, Public Health England, and the Department of Health and Social Care.
Posted on Tuesday 24th November 2020