The Unexpected Benefits and Underlying Motivations for Communicating COVID-19 Contagion Risks When Rejecting In-Person Social Invitations

Across five studies (N=3,071), we explore the interpersonal consequences of COVID risk communication when rejecting social invitations. In Study 1, people underestimate the benefits and overestimate the costs of rejecting social invitations for risk-related reasons. In Studies 2a&b, people are more likely to communicate risk when they are focused on welfare (vs. social) concerns. In Studies 3a&b, we replicate and extend these results in the context of actual social invitations. Together, these studies suggest that people should feel less concerned about rejecting social concerns for COVID-related reasons: risk communication could be more effective, and more positively perceived than people predict. These studies also suggest that policy makers should emphasize the welfare (vs. social costs) of COVID in ongoing communications.

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