Has Our Behaviour Changed During The Course Of The Pandemic?
BBC Earth|March - April 2021
There’s no doubt that the introduction of new rules and regulations has had an impact on our actions over the past year. But what are the factors at play when it comes to getting the public to protect each other?
John Drury

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HEADLINE POINTS THAT HAVE AFFECTED PUBLIC BEHAVIOUR?

From the beginning there’s been consistent evidence of some of the factors that matter. One of the things is the belief in the extent to which the coronavirus measures are effective. Another one is the extent to which there is a threat. The greater the R number [the R number is how many people one infected person will pass the disease to] then the more adherence there is.

But things like your sense of solidarity are also really important. People are doing it for others, not necessarily for themselves. The sense of fairness or justice. That’s come up with the new tiers, but in fact it’s always been a factor.

And then linking these is confidence in what the government is doing. There was a very good panel survey carried out by University College London which found that confidence in the government was the major predictor of adherence of many of the behaviours we were asked to engage in.

WHAT ROLE DOES THE SENSE OF PERSONAL REWARD PLAY?

For most people, there’s not a lot in it. It’s a minority of people, 1 in 100, that might suffer fatalities. We are doing it for others. This is a debate to be had about the role of sacrifice.

There was a very good review published by my colleagues Prof Susan Michie and Prof Robert West, which looked at whether there was any evidence for fatigue over time, and they decided that there wasn’t. Look at other kinds of events where people make a sacrifice, like a marathon running and religious festivals. These are physical endurance events. And people will do these things for a greater cause.

WHAT SORT OF EFFECT DO YOU THINK A PUNISHMENT, SUCH AS A FINE, HAS ON BEHAVIOUR?

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