Coronavirus: Social distancing accepted when people understand exponential growth

29-Jun-2020 4:05 PM EDT, by University of Cologne

Newswise — Researchers from the Social Cognition Center Cologne at the University of Cologne and from the University of Bremen report that participants in three experiments, each involving more than 500 adults in the United States, tended to assume the number of COVID-19 cases grew linearly with time, rather than exponentially. As a result, they underestimated actual virus growth. Interventions designed to help people avoid this bias led to an improved understanding of virus growth and increased support for social distancing measures compared with participants who did not receive such instructions.

The experiments were conducted by the social psychologist Dr Joris Lammers of the Social Cognition Center Cologne and the University of Bremen and his co-authors, the social psychologists Jan Crusius and Anne Gast, also from the University of Cologne. The article 'Correcting misperceptions of exponential coronavirus growth increases support for social distancing' has been published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The most effective way to stem the spread of a pandemic such as COVID-19 is what has come to be known as 'social distancing'. But the introduction of such measures is hampered by the fact that a sizeable part of the population fails to see their need. Many social scientists see the root of this perception in what they call the exponential growth bias. 'In general, people have difficulty understanding exponential growth and erroneously interpret it in linear terms instead', explains first author Joris Lammers. The result is a gross underestimation of the growth of the infection rate and a misunderstanding of the potential to slow it down through social distancing. 'Our current work tests the role of exponential growth bias in shaping the public's view on social distancing to contain the coronavirus's spreading.'

Three studies were conducted during the mass spreading of the virus in the United States toward the end of March 2020. The first study focused on participants' understandings of linear growth, showing that many Americans mistakenly perceive the virus's exponential growth in linear terms. Interestingly, political orientation also played a role: conservatives were more prone to this misunderstanding than liberals. Studies 2 and 3 showed that instructing people to avoid the exponential growth bias significantly increases correct perceptions of the virus's growth and thereby support for social distancing. 'Together, these results show the importance of statistical literacy to recruit support for fighting pandemics such as the coronavirus,' said Lammers.

'Our results stand in contrast to earlier literature showing that the exponential growth bias is difficult to overcome', he explained. 'The reason for this is that the current study focuses on a threat with great personal relevance and media presence, which likely increases subjective availability and thus the estimated probability of the risk.'

Given that social distancing is the most effective way to combat the coronavirus currently available, these findings can have a significant impact: They show that bias, among other things, influences political opinions about matters of life and death, Lammers believes. Most important for team is to show the necessity of statistical literacy and to improve that skill among the general public.

###

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2776
Newswise:Video Embedded protocol-needed-to-monitor-covid-19-disease-course
VIDEO
Released: 3-Aug-2020 9:05 PM EDT
Protocol needed to monitor COVID-19 disease course
University of Washington School of Medicine and UW Medicine

Patients with underlying conditions such as asthma or other lung problems should be checked on regularly by pulmonologists or primary-care doctors for at least six months. Some will need to be monitored for one to three years, according to a new opinion piece posted online today in The Lancet-Respiratory Medicine.

Newswise: UM Cardiology Researchers Studying How COVID-19 Affects the Heart
Released: 3-Aug-2020 3:10 PM EDT
UM Cardiology Researchers Studying How COVID-19 Affects the Heart
University of Miami Health System, Miller School of Medicine

COVID-19 is shown to impact the heart and, in some cases, have long-lasting cardiac effects. To discover the extent to which COVID-19 affects the heart, cardiologists and researchers with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have begun multiple studies.

Newswise: Tackling the Bioethics Challenges Raised by COVID-19
Released: 3-Aug-2020 3:05 PM EDT
Tackling the Bioethics Challenges Raised by COVID-19
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

The diverse situations experienced by health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic often present serious ethical challenges. From the allocation of resources and triage protocols to health-care worker and patient rights and the management of clinical trials, new ethical questions have come to the forefront of today’s global public health emergency.

Newswise: 239156_web.jpg
Released: 3-Aug-2020 2:50 PM EDT
New species of fungus sticking out of beetles named after the COVID-19 quarantine
Pensoft Publishers

A major comprehensive study on Herpomycetales and Laboulbeniales, two orders of unique ectoparasitic fungi associated with insects and other arthropods (class Laboulbeniomycetes) in Belgium and the Netherlands was published in the open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal MycoKeys.

Released: 3-Aug-2020 1:30 PM EDT
Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Significantly During Pandemic, Survey Reveals
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about an increase in telework and online commerce, and a significant decrease in the number of personal trips people are making. Understanding the effects of these rapid changes on the economy, supply chains, and the environment will be essential, as some of these behaviors will continue even after the pandemic has ended. Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently presented the results of two sets of surveys they conducted in an effort to quantify and understand these unprecedented shifts.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 5-Aug-2020 12:05 AM EDT Released to reporters: 3-Aug-2020 12:25 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 5-Aug-2020 12:05 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

31-Jul-2020 4:05 PM EDT
The effects of COVID-19 on emergency visits, hospitalizations
Mayo Clinic

COVID-19 swept into the U.S., hospitals across the country have reported that their emergency departments are emptying out. In a new study published Monday, Aug. 3, in JAMA Internal Medicine, a team of researchers from multiple institutions provides insights into this phenomenon.

Newswise: Important Dementia Studies Continuing at UK Despite Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
Released: 3-Aug-2020 10:20 AM EDT
Important Dementia Studies Continuing at UK Despite Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
University of Kentucky

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many things to a screeching halt and continues to impact our daily lives. However, important research at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA) is continuing under extreme caution and deep dedication. A monumental study in the field of dementia research is set to get underway in the coming weeks at UK.


Showing results

110 of 2776

close
0.89595