Social Learning and Behavioral Change When Faced with the COVID-19 Pandemic: A big data analysis

Author Name OTA Rui (Yokohama City University) / ITO Arata (Senior Fellow, RIETI) / SATO Masahiro (Tohoku University) / YANO Makoto (Chairman, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. July 2022 22-E-065
Research Project Social Scientific Studies on Self-replicating Natural and Technical Phenomenon
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At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, knowledge about the disease and its prevention was scarce. For example, there was no scientific evidence that masks could prevent the disease. However, masks were rapidly purchased in large quantities in Japan, resulting in a severe shortage after late January 2020. The purpose of this paper is to clarify what factors caused this change in people's behavior toward infection prevention. To this end, we employ high-resolution consumer panel data and newspaper articles nationally or locally published in Japan to empirically analyze the impact of consumers' information reception on their mask purchasing behavior. Logistic regression results demonstrate that the cumulative number of articles was significantly related to the frequency of mask purchases with respect to any period of the first wave of infections. We found that early information in a pandemic is important and that learning from public information, or social learning, can significantly induce behavioral change.