At the onset of an epidemic, can viral social media videos induce the high levels of trust and pro-sociality required for a successful community response? Shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in Wuhan, China, we conducted an experiment assessing the impact of viral videos on individual preferences and pro-social behaviour. Prior to the experiment, participants viewed one of three videos culled from Chinese social media: a central government leader visiting a local hospital and supermarket, health care volunteers transiting to Wuhan, or an emotionally neutral video unrelated to the emergency. Viewing one of the first two videos leads to higher levels of pro-sociality and increased ambiguity aversion relative to the third video. The leadership video, however, induces lower levels of trust. Our results suggest ways to craft more effective crisis response efforts and provide insights into how the direction of information in hierarchies influences trust in community members.
Guo, Y., Shachat, J., Walker, M.J. & Wei, L. (2020). Viral social media videos can raise pro-social behaviours when an epidemic arises. ESI Working Paper 20-15. https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/esi_working_papers/310/