Opposition to voluntary and mandated COVID-19 vaccination as a dynamic process : Evidence and policy implications of changing beliefs
2022, Schmelz, Katrin, Bowles, Samuel
COVID-19 vaccination rates slowed in many countries during the second half of 2021, along with the emergence of vocal opposition, particularly to mandated vaccinations. Who are those resisting vaccination? Under what conditions do they change their minds? Our three-wave representative panel survey from Germany allows us to estimate the dynamics of vaccine opposition, providing the following answers. Without mandates, it may be difficult to reach and to sustain the near-universal level of repeated vaccinations apparently required to contain the Delta, Omicron, and likely subsequent variants. But mandates substantially increase opposition to vaccination. We find that few were opposed to voluntary vaccination in all three waves of the survey. They are just 3.3% of our panel, a number that we demonstrate is unlikely to be the result of response error. In contrast, the fraction consistently opposed to enforced vaccinations is 16.5%. Under both policies, those consistently opposed and those switching from opposition to supporting vaccination are sociodemographically virtually indistinguishable from other Germans. Thus, the mechanisms accounting for the dynamics of vaccine attitudes may apply generally across societal groups. What differentiates them from others are their beliefs about vaccination effectiveness, their trust in public institutions, and whether they perceive enforced vaccination as a restriction on their freedom. We find that changing these beliefs is both possible and necessary to increase vaccine willingness, even in the case of mandates. An inference is that well-designed policies of persuasion and enforcement will be complementary, not alternatives.
Enforcement may crowd out voluntary support for COVID-19 policies, especially where trust in government is weak and in a liberal society
2021, Schmelz, Katrin
Effective states govern by some combination of enforcement and voluntary compliance. To contain the COVID-19 pandemic, a critical decision is the extent to which policy makers rely on voluntary as opposed to enforced compliance, and nations vary along this dimension. While enforcement may secure higher compliance, there is experimental and other evidence that it may also crowd out voluntary motivation. How does enforcement affect citizens' support for anti-COVID-19 policies? A survey conducted with 4,799 respondents toward the end of the first lockdown in Germany suggests that a substantial share of the population will support measures more under voluntary than under enforced implementation. Negative responses to enforcement-termed control aversion-vary across the nature of the policy intervention (e.g., they are rare for masks and frequent for vaccination and a cell-phone tracing app). Control aversion is less common among those with greater trust in the government and the information it provides, and among those who were brought up under the coercive regime of East Germany. Taking account of the likely effectiveness of enforcement and the extent to which near-universal compliance is crucial, the differing degrees of opposition to enforcement across policies suggest that for some anti-COVID-19 policies an enforced mandate would be unwise, while for others it would be essential. Similar reasoning may also be relevant for policies to address future pandemics and other societal challenges like climate change.
Neural Mechanisms Underlying Individual Differences in Control-Averse Behavior
2018, Rudorf, Sarah, Schmelz, Katrin, Baumgartner, Thomas, Wiest, Roland, Fischbacher, Urs, Knoch, Daria
When another person tries to control one's decisions, some people might comply, but many will feel the urge to act against that control. This control aversion can lead to suboptimal decisions and it affects social interactions in many societal domains. To date, however, it has been unclear what drives individual differences in control-averse behavior. Here, we address this issue by measuring brain activity with fMRI while healthy female and male human participants made choices that were either free or controlled by another person, with real consequences to both interaction partners. In addition, we assessed the participants' affects, social cognitions, and motivations via self-reports. Our results indicate that the social cognitions perceived distrust and lack of understanding for the other person play a key role in explaining control aversion at the behavioral level. At the neural level, we find that control-averse behavior can be explained by functional connectivity between the inferior parietal lobule and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, brain regions commonly associated with attention reorientation and cognitive control. Further analyses reveal that the individual strength of functional connectivity complements and partially mediates the self-reported social cognitions in explaining individual differences in control-averse behavior. These findings therefore provide valuable contributions to a more comprehensive model of control aversion.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Control aversion is a prevalent phenomenon in our society. When someone tries to control their decisions, many people tend to act against the control. This can lead to suboptimal decisions such as noncompliance to medical treatments or disobeying the law. The degree to which individuals engage in control-averse behavior, however, varies significantly. Understanding the proximal mechanisms that underlie individual differences in control-averse behavior has potential policy implications, for example, when designing policies aimed at increasing compliance with vaccination recommendations, and is therefore a highly relevant research goal. Here, we identify a neural mechanism between parietal and prefrontal brain regions that can explain individual differences in control-averse behavior. This mechanism provides novel insights into control aversion beyond what is accessible through self-reports.
Datenschutz in der (Corona-)Krise : Selbstbestimmung und Vertrauen im Fokus
2021, Dohmen, David, Schmelz, Katrin
Die Nutzung von persönlichen Daten der Bürger:innen bietet enormes Potential für die Bewältigung gesellschaftlicher Herausforderungen. Doch das Thema wird kontrovers diskutiert – von Corona-Apps und Bewegungsdaten bis hin zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung. Datenschutz hat in Deutschland einen sehr hohen Stellenwert, doch unsere repräsentative Befragung zeigt: Wenn auf Freiwilligkeit statt auf Zwang gesetzt wird, ist die Bevölkerung eher bereit, Daten zur Verfügung zu stellen. Die Datennutzung sollte daher die informationelle Selbstbestimmtheit der Bürger:innen achten und für sie oder andere einen konkreten Nutzen erkennen lassen. Neben diesen Faktoren ist das Vertrauen in öffentliche Institutionen zentral, um breite Zustimmung zur Nutzung persönlicher Daten zu gewährleisten – in Krisenzeiten und darüber hinaus.
Reactions to (the absence of) control and workplace arrangements : experimental evidence from the internet and the laboratory
2020-12, Schmelz, Katrin, Ziegelmeyer, Anthony
This paper reports an experiment designed to assess the influence of workplace arrangements on the reactions to (the absence of) control. We compare behavior in an Internet and a laboratory principal-agent game where the principal can control the agent by implementing a minimum effort requirement. Then the agent chooses an effort costly to her but beneficial to the principal. Our design captures meaningful differences between working from home and working at the office arrangements. Online subjects enjoy greater anonymity than lab subjects, they interact in a less constrained environment than the laboratory, and there is a larger physically-oriented social distance between them. Control is significantly more effective online than in the laboratory. Positive reactions to the principal’s choice not to control are observed in both treatments, but they are significantly weaker online than in the laboratory. Principals often choose the highest control level, which maximizes their earnings.
Social Distance and Control Aversion : Evidence from the Internet and the Laboratory
2015, Schmelz, Katrin, Ziegelmeyer, Anthony
We test experimentally whether monitoring is less likely to reduce work motivation in distant than in close principal-agent relationships. Employing the same standard subject pool of students, we compare a laboratory and an internet implementation of an experimental principal-agent game where the principal can impose control at two different levels on the agent. Agency relationships are arguably more distant in the internet than in the laboratory setting. We find that differences in agents' effort due to an increase in the level of control are larger in the internet than in the laboratory experiment. The effect is driven by both higher intrinsic motivation and stronger control aversion in the laboratory. Agents' effort differences are fairly stable over time in both experiments which indicates that even experienced agents react more negatively to the implementation of control in the laboratory than on the internet.
Overcoming COVID-19 vaccination resistance when alternative policies affect the dynamics of conformism, social norms, and crowding out
2021, Schmelz, Katrin, Bowles, Samuel
What is an effective vaccination policy to end the COVID-19 pandemic? We address this question in a model of the dynamics of policy effectiveness drawing upon the results of a large panel survey implemented in Germany during the first and second waves of the pandemic. We observe increased opposition to vaccinations were they to be legally required. In contrast, for voluntary vaccinations, there was higher and undiminished support. We find that public distrust undermines vaccine acceptance, and is associated with a belief that the vaccine is ineffective and, if enforced, compromises individual freedom. We model how the willingness to be vaccinated may vary over time in response to the fraction of the population already vaccinated and whether vaccination has occurred voluntarily or not. A negative effect of enforcement on vaccine acceptance (of the magnitude observed in our panel or even considerably smaller) could result in a large increase in the numbers that would have to be vaccinated unwillingly in order to reach a herd-immunity target. Costly errors may be avoided if policy makers understand that citizens' preferences are not fixed but will be affected both by the crowding-out effect of enforcement and by conformism. Our findings have broad policy applicability beyond COVID-19 to cases in which voluntary citizen compliance is essential because state capacities are limited and because effectiveness may depend on the ways that the policies themselves alter citizens' beliefs and preferences.
Intrinsic connectivity networks underlying individual differences in control-averse behavior
2018-12, Rudorf, Sarah, Baumgartner, Thomas, Markett, Sebastian, Schmelz, Katrin, Wiest, Roland, Fischbacher, Urs, Knoch, Daria
When people sense that another person tries to control their decisions, some people will act against the control, whereas others will not. This individual tendency to control-averse behavior can have far-reaching consequences, such as engagement in illegal activities or noncompliance with medical treatments. Although individual differences in control-averse behavior have been well documented in behavioral studies, their neurological basis is less well understood. Here, we use a neural trait approach to examine whether individual differences in control-averse behavior might be linked to stable brain-based characteristics. To do so, we analyze the association between intrinsic connectivity networks as measured by resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging and control-averse behavior in an economic exchange game. In this game, subjects make choices that are either free or controlled by another person, with real consequences to both interaction partners. We find that the individual level of control-averse behavior can be positively predicted by intrinsic connectivity within the salience network, but not the central executive network or the default mode network. Specifically, subjects with a more prominent connectivity hub in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex show greater levels of control-averse behavior. This finding provides the first evidence that the heterogeneity in control-averse behavior might originate in systematic differences of the stable functional brain organization.
Hidden costs of control : four repetitions and an extension
2012, Ziegelmeyer, Anthony, Schmelz, Katrin, Ploner, Matteo
We report four repetitions of Falk and Kosfeld’s (Am. Econ. Rev. 96(5):1611–1630, 2006) low and medium control treatments with 476 subjects. Each repetition employs a sample drawn from a standard subject pool of students and demographics vary across samples. We largely confirm the existence of hidden costs of control but, contrary to the original study, hidden costs of control are usually not substantial enough to significantly undermine the effectiveness of economic incentives. Our subjects were asked, at the end of the experimental session, to complete a questionnaire in which they had to state their work motivation in hypothetical scenarios. Our questionnaires are identical to the ones administered in Falk and Kosfeld’s (Am. Econ. Rev. 96(5):1611–1630, 2006) questionnaire study. In contrast to the game play data, our questionnaire data are similar to those of the original questionnaire study. In an attempt to solve this puzzle, we report an extension with 228 subjects where performance-contingent earnings are absent i.e. both principals and agents are paid according to a flat participation fee. We observe that hidden costs significantly outweigh benefits of control under hypothetical incentives.