Track 8: Personality Processes & Individual Differences
Anne-Sophie Chaxel (HEC Paris)

8C. The Pandemic

Saturday, March 5
2:00pm – 3:30pm EST
Discussant: Selin Malkoc (Ohio State University)
MC: Annie Wilson (University of Pennsylvania)
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Student Coordinator: Michelle Wang (Cornell University) (

Competitive Papers

Increased Generosity under COVID-19 Threat
Authors: Ariel Fridman (University of California San Diego), Rachel Gershon (University of California San Diego), Ayelet Gneezy (University of California San Diego)
Presenting Author: Ariel Fridman (University of California San Diego)
During major crises, two conflicting behaviors may emerge – increased selfishness or increased generosity. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we study the effect of threat, proxied by the number of COVID-19 deaths in one’s geographic location, on generosity. A large dataset of donations made through Charity Navigator (N = 696,942 donations) and dictator game allocations over a six-month longitudinal study (N = 1,003 participants) show that individuals exhibited greater generosity in response to COVID-19 deaths in their county. Our work provides insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic affected other-regarding behaviors and advances our understanding of the impact of threat on generosity.
Survival and Surplus Mindsets: How Early-Life Socioeconomic Conditions Shape Risky Behaviors During COVID-19
Authors: Tito Grillo (University of Texas at Austin), Ty Henderson (University of Texas at Austin), Adrian Ward (University of Texas at Austin)
Presenting Author: Tito Grillo (University of Texas at Austin)
Eight studies (total N = 6901) suggest that, controlling for current resources, adult consumers raised in wealthier households took more risks during COVID-19. They were more willing to take their chances with suspicious offers to receive vaccines and financial aid (which were, in reality, scams) and engaged in behaviors with coronavirus contamination risks more often than consumers with less privileged upbringings. Making COVID-19 dangers salient induced deviations from these risk-taking tendencies, but these deviations seem short-lived. We provide an explanation based on survival and surplus mindsets shaped by low and high early-life socioeconomic conditions, respectively.
Exponential Numeracy and the Ability to Forecast COVID-19
Authors: Brad Bitterly (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), Eric VanEpps (University of Utah), Maurice Schweitzer (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)
Presenting Author: Eric VanEpps (University of Utah)
The spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) has been characterized by exponential growth, a concept that many consumers may struggle to understand. Across six pre-registered studies (N = 3,194), we develop a new test to measure exponential numeracy, show that existing measures of numeracy fail to capture understanding of exponential trends, and demonstrate that individuals with greater exponential numeracy are better able to understand and predict exponential trends, including the spread of COVID-19. Exponential numeracy appears to improve forecast accuracy by buffering against an overreliance on heuristics, such as anchoring and adjustment, when making predictions.
Consumer Response to COVID-19 Masking Policies in a Politically Polarized World
Authors: Isabella Bunosso (The Ohio State University), Grant Donnelly (The Ohio State University), Selin Malkoc (The Ohio State University)
Presenting Author: Isabella Bunosso (The Ohio State University)
The pandemic dramatically changed how firms interact with their customers. While government regulation has required firms to implement COVID-19 policies (e.g., masks, social distancing, vaccination), the exact manner of implementation is left up to the firms. We explore consumer response to firms’ implementation and communication of such policies. Four studies find that consumer response is moderated by political ideology, as well as the perceived political orientation of the firm: Liberals reward firms with any mask policies regardless of store perceptions, while conservatives punish firms requiring (vs. recommending) masks – especially for stores perceived as right-leaning.

Flash Talks

A Multi-group Longitudinal Experiment on the Effectiveness of Communication Framing(s) in Reducing Vaccine Hesitancy
Authors: Mehdi Hossain (University of Rhode Island)
Presenting Author: Mehdi Hossain (University of Rhode Island)
Vaccine hesitancy has remained a cause of concern as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. Using a longitudinal randomized controlled trial, the current study investigated how vaccine hesitancy can be reduced through effective framing of communication. In this study, respondents were randomly assigned to various groups to receive education on behavioral norms during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the content of the education remained the same, the framing varied from being Protection focused, Situational control focused to Hope focused. A multi-group growth curve analysis revealed that framing of such communication inducing hope for the future can be most effective in reducing vaccine hesitancy.
Video Cures Mind: Estimating How the COVID-19 Pandemic Shifts Video Consumption
Authors: Zizhou Peng (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick), Miaolei Jia (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick), Iman Ahmadi (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick), John Rudd (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick)
Presenting Author: Zizhou Peng (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick)
The outbreak of COVID-19 is believed to change the way how people use social media platforms and consume online streaming content. We hence quantify the impact of the pandemic on the usage of streaming services. Specifically, we focus on video consumption and aim to examine the following questions: How does the emotionality of video (positive versus negative) influence associated consumer engagements (i.e. views, likes, and comments)? How does the COVID-19 pandemic impact the effectiveness of video emotionality? To empirically examine these questions, we analyze two YouTube’s daily trending video data of UK covering periods before and after the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, we incorporate personal well-being data from UK National Statistics Office to indicate reasons why there exists a shift in video consumption behaviors before and during the pandemic. We further discuss the substantive insights as well as managerial implications.


The Detachment Paradox: Employers Recognize the Benefits of Detachment from Work for Productivity, Yet Penalize It When Making Promotion Decisions
Authors: Elisa Solinas (University of Southern California), Eva Buechel (University of Southern California)
Presenting Author: Elisa Solinas (University of Southern California)
Work-Life-Balance and its implications for mental health are gaining increased attention, leading to criticism about the glorification of overwork. Indeed, there is ample evidence that psychological detachment from work not only increases well-being, but also increases workers’ productivity. However, we highlight a detachment paradox: despite recognizing the benefits of detachment, managers penalize detaching workers in worker evaluations and promotion decisions. Workers, aware of the penalty, hide detachment from supervisors and engage in less detaching activities when employee evaluation is salient. We provide initial evidence that implementing formalized detachment policies may reduce the detachment penalty and call for future research on this important topic.
The Psychology of Distancing: Understanding Psychological Drivers of Social Distancing during the Pandemic
Authors: Priya Narayanan (Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode)
Presenting Author: Priya Narayanan (Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode)
The psychology of social distancing has been relatively unexplored. A multi-method research conducted in the world’s second most populous country uncovers novel psychological aspects of social distancing behaviors. Preliminary observations suggest that adherence to social distancing norms is widely erratic, even as a survey finds high awareness of the need for social distancing. Scenario-based lab experiments affirm that the practice of social distancing is lower than deemed necessary, but is higher under high (vs. low) perceived closeness with the other person, and people are uncomfortable with others’ low social distancing. Communication through visualization could increase adoption of social distancing. Findings of this study hold implications for marketers, policy makers, and individuals.
Upgrade when COVID-19 is in Town: Product Upgrading as a Response to Disease Concerns
Authors: Yunbo Zhang (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), Yunhui Huang (Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University)
Presenting Author: Yunbo Zhang (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
Merging insights from evolutionary psychology with research on product upgrading, we predict that for consumers who have strong (vs. weak) self-brand connections (SBCs) with a brand, disease concerns (e.g., COVID-19), by evoking an intention to stay away from others, increase their intention to upgrade to a brand’s more exclusive products. This occurs because exclusive products are only available to a small group of people, enabling strong-SBC consumers to symbolically distance from other brand users while also maintaining their relationship with the brand. Three studies provided support for our predictions and the underlying process.
Does COVID-Related Stress Affect Self-Control and the Ability to Make Healthy Food Choices?
Authors: Marie Falkenstein (Paris Brain Institute, Sobonne), Felix Nitsch (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), Leonie Koban (Paris Brain Institute, Sobonne), Aiqing Ling (University College Dublin), Tobias Kalenscher (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), Hilke Plassmann (INSEAD)
Presenting Author: Felix Nitsch (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf)
We investigated whether and how stress induced by the COVID-19-pandemic impacted people’s ability to make healthy food choices. In line with previous studies, we found that (a) more perceived stress since the start of the pandemic and (b) higher perceived stress and a higher ratio of hair cortisol to cortisone — a biological measure for chronic stress — led to less healthy choices when faced with temptation. However, our effect sizes were much smaller than those of controlled lab studies manipulating acute stress. These effects were specific to food choices and did not generalize to financial decisions.
Tracking Comfort with Interpersonal Touch Over Time: The Effect of #MeToo and COVID-19 on Preferences for Touch
Authors: Andrea Luangrath (University of Iowa), Suyeon Jung (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Presenting Author: Suyeon Jung (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
We investigate how two exogenous shocks (#MeToo and COVID-19) influence individuals’ comfort with interpersonal touch (CIT) using time series data from 32 studies conducted between 2011-2021 (N = 14,189). We observe that comfort with initiating touch decreased significantly after #MeToo but has rebounded since COVID-19. We also show that comfort with receiving touch decreased significantly after #MeToo but hasn’t changed due to COVID-19. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the increase in comfort with initiating touch after COVID-19 is larger for men than for women, whereas the decrease in comfort with receiving touch after #MeToo is larger for women than for men.
Associations Between COVID-19-Driven Racial Discrimination and Asian Americans’ Health Outcomes: A Comprehensive Systematic Review
Authors: Sanga Song (Indiana University East), Hyejin Kim (DePaul University)
Presenting Author: Sanga Song (Indiana University East)
This study systematically reviewed the existing literature that examined the associations between COVID-19-driven racial discrimination and health outcomes among Asian Americans. The review of 11 eligible studies showed that most studies used a cross-sectional design with a convenience sample, lacked psychometrically validated exposure instruments, and mainly focused on mental health outcomes without in-depth theoretical discussions. Limited studies have examined the mechanisms or risk/protective factors influencing these associations, and no studies have evaluated an intervention. Further exploration of the mechanisms behind the associations and possible risk and protective factors will provide important information to assess and manage the health-related risks of Asian Americans.
How Consumers React to Marketplace Restrictions During the Pandemic: the Role of Goal Conflicts, Reactance and Coping in Product Evaluation
Authors: Na Xiao (Laurentian University, Canada)
Presenting Author: Na Xiao (Laurentian University, Canada)
This research aims to investigate how consumers react to freedom restrictions. Studies supported a mediator (i.e., threat to freedom, H1) and two moderators (i.e., goal conflict H22, psychological reactance, H3)’ effect on the relationship between perceived restrictions and positive product evaluation. Based on two experiments, all hypotheses are supported. Further, three new coping strategies were identified from a Netnography study and are proposed to help consumers address the stress caused by the restrictions. More studies will be run.
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