To Mask or Not to Mask: Salience of Risk and the Efficacy of Government Messaging

23 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2021

See all articles by Lucy Gillespie

Lucy Gillespie

University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public & International Affairs, Students

Daniel Jones

University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public & International Affairs

Sera Linardi

University of Pittsburgh

Date Written: November 19, 2020

Abstract

During public health crises and other emergencies, governments send messages to help residents
decide how to react. When and what kind of messages are effective? This study documents that
government messaging has the largest impact when risk is least salient to individuals. In an online
experiment, we test the interactive effects of displaying state COVID-19 statistics and government
messages (e.g., recommendations on mask-wearing) on Americans’ valuation for masks at a time when messaging about the appropriate mitigating actions was very much in flux. Our findings suggest that sending an action-oriented message early is crucial for effective government messaging.

Keywords: salience, voluntary compliance, health, messaging, government, masks, COVID-19

JEL Classification: C9, H12, I12

Suggested Citation

Gillespie, Lucy and Jones, Daniel and Linardi, Sera, To Mask or Not to Mask: Salience of Risk and the Efficacy of Government Messaging (November 19, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3788876 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3788876

Lucy Gillespie

University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public & International Affairs, Students ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15260-0001
United States

Daniel Jones

University of Pittsburgh - Graduate School of Public & International Affairs ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15260-0001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://danielbjones.weebly.com

Sera Linardi (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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