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How to Change Behavior During a Pandemic: From Personal Habits to Public Health

January 15, 2022 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm EST

How to Change Behavior During a Pandemic: From Personal Habits to Public Health

Social distancing. Mask wearing. Vaccine acceptance and uptake. The pandemic may be medical in nature, but many of the public health tools we’ve used to combat the virus, and the tools we’ll need to eradicate it, are behavioral.

Adopting these public health behaviors en masse is anything but straightforward, though critical to protecting essential workers and other vulnerable people. Shelter-in-place orders and masks have divided us, often along political lines. We’ve heard pleas to adhere to public health recommendations and witnessed protests against them, as well as fatigue. Why has collective behavior change in the name of saving lives been so hard and felt so personal?

And we’re not only grappling with new public health behaviors. With the New Year, many still have individual goals — eat healthier, exercise more, be better partners and parents. Can people achieve personal behavior change, set new habits and chart out new routines at a time when our “normal” world is turned upside down?

Join a discussion about the science of behavior change during Covid-19, with behavioral scientist Katherine Milkman (Penn) and social neuroscientist Jay Van Bavel (NYU). The speakers will share their insights on topics like vaccine uptake, the polarization of social distancing and mask-wearing, and how each of us can carve out a place for personal development even in the middle of a pandemic.

Milkman recently led a nationwide study on how to boost flu vaccine uptake, and she’s also explored the ways we can use behavioral science to better achieve our goals, through creative techniques like temptation bundling and temporal landmarks. Van Bavel recently coauthored a study on how the social and behavioral sciences can support our response to the pandemic and has been investigating the roots of polarization and our political beliefs for over a decade.

Evan Nesterak, Editor in Chief of Behavioral Scientist magazine, will moderate.