Publications / Other Report

Conflicting Information and Compliance With COVID-19 Behavioral Recommendations

Naugle, Asmeret B.; Rothganger, Fredrick R.; Verzi, Stephen J.; Doyle, Casey L.

The prevalence of COVID-19 is shaped by behavioral responses to recommendations and warnings. Available information on the disease determines the population’s perception of danger and thus its behavior; this information changes dynamically, and different sources may report conflicting information. We study the feedback between disease, information, and stay-at-home behavior using a hybrid agent-based-system dynamics model that incorporates evolving trust in sources of information. We use this model to investigate how divergent reporting and conflicting information can alter the trajectory of a public health crisis. The model shows that divergent reporting not only alters disease prevalence over time, but also increases polarization of the population’s behaviors and trust in different sources of information.