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Understanding Individual Behavioral Changes due to COVID-19

By Akhila Sriram on June 23, 2020

Understanding Behavioral Changes Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

Have you ever wanted to possess a superpower that would give you the ability to have complete control over the entire world? Did you imagine yourself to be an enormous, towering giant, able to rule with brute force? Or maybe you imagined yourself so small that nobody can see you, yet equally as powerful as the giant, able to move about unnoticed until everyone realizes a little too late that YOU HAVE ARRIVED!!

COVID-19 didn’t exactly come onto the global scene in that way, and the virus isn’t something anyone would call a superpower, but it did arrive with little notice and it has taken control of what the world has been able to safely do since the beginning of 2020.

When COVID-19 began to spread from country to country and then swept across the U.S., everyone was scrambling to make sense of the seriousness of the impact of it and to understand ways in which we could slow the spread of this unnoticeable, tiny, but deadly disease that quickly became a public health safety giant.

Public health guidance and U.S. government mandates began to take shape and we were instructed about how to best slow the spread of COVID-19 and how to best keep ourselves and our families safe. The battle was on!

It was during those early stages when federal compliance measures went into place in the U.S. that OSG Analytics recognized the opportunity to bring the same approaches employed with clients, pharma clients in particular with understanding behavioral motivations related to medicine and medical devices, to understanding how anyone can be motivated to better comply with COVID-19 public safety initiatives to slow the spread of the virus.

Most states were under strict stay-at-home orders. Businesses reduced or ceased operations. Those who could, transitioned into working and learning from home. Large gatherings were cancelled, and nonessential activities halted.

While many people in the U.S. complied with stay-at-home orders, wearing face masks and other face coverings in public, and the many other mandated measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, there were those who did not believe in the value of compliance, and therefore, they did not comply.


COVID-19 Research Using Behavior Analytics to Understand Public Health Safety Compliance

OSG conducted research April 1-9, 2020 to understand what fundamentally drives people in the U.S. to comply with federal COVID-19 public health safety mandates. The sample was comprised of U.S. population cross section of 394 respondents, ages 18-55+. The study examined 27 attributes in 6 categories, evidence, financial, influencers, regulation, resources and social to understand what and to what level of importance each factor motivates the individual to comply. In addition, the study aimed to understand how to best motivate individuals who aren’t complying with COVID-19 safety guidance to better comply. A top down approach was executed.

The data was analyzed with OSG’s proprietary behavioral analytics technology, ASEMAP, which uses artificial intelligence and mathematical algorithms to determine outcomes. Individual data as well as averages of data for all study participants were compiled, analyzed and examined to understand what motivates people to comply with government orders and public health safety guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Advanced Analytics Researchers found Four Groups of Behavioral Changes

OSG’s Advanced Analytics Research team identified four segments of survey respondents characterized by different behavioral changes but motivated similarly, Fearful (38%), Financially Concerned (26%), Skeptics (19%) and Overwhelmed (17%). The researchers determined that all groups could be nudged to comply, but each were motivated by different factors. The Fearful group was the most compliant while the Skeptics would be the most challenging group to motivate. Not surprisingly, the overall number one factor which motivates compliance for everyone no matter which group is fear. See exhibit 1 below.

Initial Overall ASEMAP™ Results by Segment 

This table shows the results for drivers of compliance separated by segment as the averages of the all participants’ data.


  • Fearful: are motivated primarily by fear for themselves or loved ones. Disturbing evidence and news reinforce their fear which in turn grows anxiety about the future. They are largely self-motivated and likely to comply without nudging.
  • Financially Concerned: are concerned about their financial health in all this chaos. Compliance may have to take a back seat to their ensuring other commitments are met. Incentives and support are likely impactful to motivate this group to better comply (stimulus checks, unemployment benefits beyond the usual amount and duration, etc.).
  • Skeptics: see it all with a sense of doubt and challenge to their freedom. They demand evidence, and a lot of it, but there is a question about what evidence would be effective in motivating them. Even though they want evidence, proof may not motivate this group to comply. Nudging is unlikely to help.
  • Overwhelmed: are overwhelmed by the circumstances and are looking for external guidance as well as practical assistance in managing the situation. They are interested in complying. Nudging and ideas about how to stay on track could motivate them to better comply.

U.S. Opens as COVID-19 Slows Down; CDC Compliance Still Important

From the beginning, the impact of COVID-19 has been felt at varying levels across the U.S. and the adherence to government mandates and CDC public safety guidelines have also varied. This trend will likely continue in the future for as long as the virus is active.

All 50 states and U.S. territories have some measure of restrictions, except Alaska which is listed as no restrictions (check out this map). All states, even Alaska, is reminded that physical distancing is mandatory. Elsewhere, mandates are strict. Wearing masks are still required in areas of the country which were hardest hit, limited capacity and sanitization orders are still enforced in many cities.

As businesses and organizations operate responsibly by protecting the health of their employees and customers, understanding what drives people to comply with COVID-19 public health safety measures, mandated and self-imposed, should help to inform how to nudge those who don’t comply and to help you navigate your path to the next new normal.

For more information on how OSG Analytics can help you improve your customer experience program, send us your contact info and our team will get in touch with you!