Quotable: Behavioral science can help curb coronavirus spread

“Despite surging Covid-19 cases around the country, groups continue to flout public health guidance about safe practices. Some instances are particularly flagrant, such as Alabama college students reportedly organizing “Covid parties” to intentionally infect attendees. But individual examples reflect a broader trend: since late May, a growing proportion of Americans have socialized with people outside of their own households, with up to a third doing so without maintaining social distancing. It is easy to write off this behavior as a result of poor awareness and the spread of misinformation. But decision science suggests that it may be dictated by group behavior as much as faulty information. Humans are social beings that seek out surrounding norms to inform what is deemed to be appropriate choices. The tendency to follow the “wisdom of the crowd” or make choices based on what others do (e.g., friends, public figures) is known as social proof. To change Covid-related behaviors, we must implement policies and programs that also harness the power of social influence to fundamentally change social norms.”

Dr. Joshua Liao, internal medicine physician at the University of Washington and contributor to Forbes

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