Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has put the focus on the personal responsibility of citizens. Compared to the measures taken in other countries, this policy is relatively unique. This raises the question of whether this policy has sufficient effect on the behaviour of citizens. In other words, by whom are the recommended rules of conduct actually followed?
Merel van Hulsen, PhD candidate at Erasmus School of Economics, Kirsten Rohde, Professor of Behavioural Economics, and Job van Exel, Professor of Economics and Values, conducted research after compliance with the corona rules among the Dutch population.
Pro-social versus selfish behaviour
According to the broad independence theory, the chances of achieving a collective goal are greatest if people consider the social and long-term consequences of their actions, the researchers state in their contribution to the Bulletin of the Association for Health Economics (VGE). It appears that people who exhibit pro-social behaviour find the collective consequences of their behaviour more important, while people who exhibit selfish behaviour attach more importance to personal gains. But does this also manifest itself in the context of a pandemic?
What do the results tell us?
To investigate this, Rohde, Van Exel and Van Hulsen asked a thousand adults, representative of the Dutch population in terms of age, gender and education, to complete an online questionnaire between March 27 and March 30. One of the questions was to what extent they comply with various rules of conduct advised by the government. The researchers found that at the end of March, a considerable part of the population voluntarily complied with the advised rules. This applied to a greater extent to people who consider the consequences of their behaviour for others and for the future to be important. People with a higher risk of infection also indicated that they complied better with the rules of conduct. In addition, the research showed that people who believe that the people around them follow the rules better, also do so themselves.
The behaviour of the Dutch population during this corona crisis seems to be in line with previous research into social dilemmas. Appealing to the sense of responsibility of the population ensures that people comply with the rules from a preventive point of view, and especially for the benefit of others, and thus appears to be an effective strategy to contain the coronavirus up to a certain extent.