Exposure to the Covid-19 pandemic environment and generosity


We report data from an online experiment which allows us to study how generosity changed over a 6-day period during the initial explosive growth of the COVID-19 pandemic in Andalusia, Spain, while the country was under a strict lockdown. Participants (n = 969) could donate a fraction of a €100 prize to an unknown charity. Our data are particularly rich in the age distribution and we complement them with daily public information about COVID-19-related deaths, infections and hospital admissions. We find correlational evidence that donations decreased in the period under study, particularly among older individuals. Our analysis of the mechanisms behind the detected decrease in generosity suggests that expectations about others’ behaviour, perceived mortality risk and (alarming) information play a key—but independent—role for behavioural adaptation. These results indicate that social behaviour is quickly adjusted in response to the pandemic environment, possibly reflecting some form of selective prosociality.

Keywords: altruism, exposure to Covid-19