May 06, 2020

After eventual lifting of lockdown, behavioural science must form key part of India's COVID-19 response

In Firstpost, Kadambari Shah and Priya Vedavalli write about the importance to use behavioural science in public policy, specifically in the COVID-19 response as the lockdown come to an end. They explain how it can be done. Excerpts:

"As India gears up to gradually lift the lockdown, its massive population will have to build and exercise crucial new habits such as physical distancing, wearing masks, and maintaining hand and face hygiene. How much the virus spreads will, to a large extent, depend on how effectively we bring about and sustain these behavioural shifts. We propose the 'MINDSPACE' framework and the need for behavioural science to be embedded within policymaking as the lockdown comes to an end.


What will happen to people's behaviour after a few weeks? Some may not see any harm in going back to normal by engaging in 'risky' behaviour after the arduous lockdown. This ties into 'fatigue', ie the boredom that comes with adhering to a newly-imposed behaviour and the consequent likelihood of people giving it up. Behaviours such as 'just one night out with friends', 'I don't feel like wearing a mask today' or 'I'll skip washing my hands this time' could be perceived as innocuous. Yet, this voice in our head becomes emboldened every time we justify that 'nothing will happen to me'. Additionally, as individuals, we severely underestimate how our behaviour affects the collective."

Read full article here


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