Third prize in the Covid Behavioural Challenge for ECRi-ESSB Team

Jari Hoogstins (Researcher at ECRi), Emiel Maasland (Managing Director of ECRi) and Inge Merkelbach (Academic Researcher at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences) have won the third prize in the Covid Behavioural Challenge. The challenge was organized by the Behavioural Insights Network Netherlands (BIN NL) and the Behavior Change Group with the purpose of gathering innovative ideas stemming from behavioural science that address current challenges related to Covid-19 in the Netherlands.

The team’s award-winning idea aims to increase the vaccination rate against Covid-19 by introducing a vaccination buddy campaign. The campaign intends to encourage (mainly) young people to make a vaccination appointment with a buddy (for instance a friend, flat mate or family member) and post about it on social media. By doing so, buddies can participate in a lottery organized by the government and have the chance to win a prize. 

This idea is based on various behavioural principles that have been shown to enhance positive health behaviours. Firstly, making an appointment with a buddy increases the likelihood to commit to it. By publicly announcing this on social media, this commitment is even greater. Research shows that such commitment devices can increase the chance that an intention becomes an action when the time of the appointment comes.

Secondly, by involving a buddy the vaccination may become a social activity, making it more attractive than going alone. Aside from making it more fun, going together may make it easier for those who strongly dislike or fear needles.

Thirdly, exhibiting the desired behaviour on social media reinforces the social norm, as it implicitly communicates that getting vaccinated is the appropriate and socially desirable behaviour. Social norms have been found to play an important role in influencing others’ (health) behaviour.  

The reason to primarily target young people is that they may be less intrinsically motivated to get vaccinated than older people, as the probability of being severely affected by the virus is lower. In the coming weeks, BIN NL will investigate whether elements of this idea can be used in future public policy related to Covid-19.

Researcher