Effects of COVID-19 Information Cues on Social Distancing
Last registered on April 02, 2020


Trial Information
General Information
Effects of COVID-19 Information Cues on Social Distancing
Initial registration date
April 01, 2020
Last updated
April 02, 2020 12:10 PM EDT

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Primary Investigator
University of Copenhagen
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
American University
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
The COVID-19 pandemic calls for collective action. In efforts to slow down the spread of the virus, governments across the globe are instructing citizens to maintain a physical distance from others and avoid crowds (“social distancing”). Public health authorities and experts agree that minimizing physical contact between people is a key measure for mitigating the COVID-19 outbreak. But what kind of information is most effective for eliciting social distancing compliance? The study examines how different COVID-19 information cues—appealing to prosocial motivation and empathy in varying degree—affect self-reported social distancing compliance. Using a split-ballot survey experiment, a non-probability sample of US residents are exposed to one of five information cues. We examine intention-to-treat effects in relation to two social distancing outcomes.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Favero, Nathan and Mogens Jin Pedersen. 2020. "Effects of COVID-19 Information Cues on Social Distancing." AEA RCT Registry. April 02. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5611-1.0.
Experimental Details
The intervention consists of manipulation of COVID-19 information in an online survey.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
(1) Number of weeks that respondents are willing to follow official recommendations to stay at home as much as possible and avoiding all social contact (i.e., adhering to social distancing).

(2) An index of specific social distancing behaviors.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The “social distancing” index is constructed based on responses to five survey items:

To what extent do you agree with the following statements? During the next few weeks…
(a) I will meet with friends or relatives who live outside my own household.
(b) I will make the fewest possible trips to the grocery store.
(c) I will be at places where other people will also be (café, restaurant, specialty shops, church, etc.).
(d) I will avoid all social gatherings (i.e., adhere to so-called “social distancing”).
(e) I will strongly encourage others to avoid all social contact (i.e., adhere to so-called “social distancing”).
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
As additional analyses, we estimate intention-to-treat effects in relation to four survey items capturing COVID-19-related attitudes and beliefs.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The study involves a five-armed, parallel-design, individually randomized trial—in the form of a split ballot survey experiment. The experiment is carried out among a non-probability sample of US residents. All survey respondents are presented with information about the COVID-19 situation. After an introductory text (identical across experimental conditions), respondents are exposed to one of five informational cues.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is carried out by simple randomization by computer.
Randomization Unit
Individual survey respondent.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
1,500 respondents.
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,500 respondents.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
300 in Control, 300 in Treatment 1, 300 in Treatment 2, 300 in Treatment 3, and 300 in Treatment 4.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Under the assumption of 1,500 valid responses and balanced groups, our study is powered to enable detecting of effects of f > .10 with high statistical power (Power = .90; alpha = .05, two-tailed).
IRB Name
American University Review Board for Protection of Human Subjects in Research (IRB)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents
Analysis Plan.txt

MD5: fea815e3926915498b04f3668297386f

SHA1: 7040aaec7b6367b472fab051818cc5de2039a38f

Uploaded At: April 01, 2020