The COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on citizens all around the world. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, one of the most important measures is practicing hand hygiene. We see nudging, a technique from behavioural economics, as a possible way to increase hand hygiene without relying on mandatory measures. In this field experiment, we test two nudge types that previously have been applied successfully, a salience nudge and a gain frame nudge, in a new context (i.e., shopping street). Four hundred nineteen shoppers were observed during a counterbalanced experiment in three stores, where a disinfectant dispenser was accompanied by a salience nudge, gain frame nudge, or no nudge. Data on dispenser usage was analysed using mixed models to account for groups entering the store. When compared to the control condition, no significant effect of either nudge on participants using the disinfectant was found. This could be caused by the increased attention for hand hygiene during COVID-19, because the baseline for practicing hand hygiene in our study was much higher than that in previous pre-COVID-19 studies. Alternatively, it is possible that shoppers already disinfected their hands before leaving the house, as advised by the government. Our results suggest that stores, and governments, should look for other measures than the tested nudges to improve hand hygiene in the shopping street during the COVID-19 pandemic, either combining different nudges and/or using less subtle methods.

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Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science
Department of Psychology

Weijers, R.J. (2020). Nudging to Increase Hand Hygiene During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Field Experiment. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science. doi:10.1037/cbs0000245