"We can't do in real life what we can do in the game," said Griffith. "We can't give some people treatment and others not. The game gave us a way to conduct an experiment on behavior that could never be done in real life."
Because self-protecting involves a cost, players earned the highest number of points by staying healthy and not choosing the preventative measures. At the end of the game, players knew they would receive a gift card with a value equal to the total number of points earned in the game an incentive to play honestly.
The experiment was conducted twice. In one game, the cost for players to self-protect was low, in the other it was higher. Players in the low cost condition were significantly more likely to make the choice to protect themselves from infection.
"Players were rolling the dice to see if they could stay healthy without paying the costs of protection. But even those players who were more inclined to take risks chose to self-protect the more often they got sick," Chen said.
The results can be applied to many illnesses from the common cold to sexually transmitted diseases, where there are costs, financial or otherwise, to taking a preventative measure. For example, in the face of an outbreak of flu, preventative costs might include a fear of negative side effects from taking a vaccination, a fear of needles, lost pay for time away from work, the gas cost of driving to a flu shot center and the time spent waiting in line for a vaccination as well as, for some, the cost of the vaccination itself.
Successfully promoting preventative measures
The study shows that to reduce disease prevalence, policies that reduce the cost of self-protection can be helpful, such as offering paid time off for employees who get flu shots or providing free flu shots onsite.
The research also showed that
|Contact: Kim McGrath|
Wake Forest University