ALABAMA RESEARCHERS STUDY PANDEMIC’S IMPACT ON DECISION-MAKING

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By WVUA 23 Contributor Daniel Pinheiro

University of Alabama researchers are looking into stress-induced declines in decision-making skills potentially caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The National Science Foundation’s Rapid Response Research program lent over $82,000 to Culverhouse College of Business professors Dr. Laura Razzolini and Dr. Michael Price to support these studies alongside others in the wake of major crises.

The studies connect to a research plan by the NSF to help experts understand, teach, and ultimately combat the pandemic.

Prior Research

UA researchers will hand out national surveys to determine the pandemic’s overall impact on economic decisions and mental health.  This research comes after a recent study examining a bridge replacement plan’s impacts on stress and decision-making in downtown Birmingham.

“We were going to go back and see what has changed among the population we surveyed during construction, but the pandemic changed things even more,” Razzolini said.  “We can now compare stress induced by something normal such as traffic congestion and construction to stress induced by the pandemic.”

Studies of stress over the bridge plan reveal high levels of stress harm economic decision-making.

“It might sound intuitive and obvious that stress leads to poor-decision-making, but the relationship is hard to quantify,” Price said.  “Stress can be related to a lot of other things in your environment that also affect your decision-making.  Not all poor decision-making is the same.”

Other Aspects of the Study

Individuals’ adherence to government and public health restrictions and the extent they are willing to prevent COVID-19 infection make up other key research areas.

The study’s participants will replicate economic actions that pay out up to $75.  These simulations examine honesty, altruism, risk attitudes and preferences over time.

“When we think about health shocks or things such as a highway closure, there are costs and benefits we examine,” Price said.  “What we are less likely to quantify is the impact on mental well-being and risks taken by individuals over time.  We need to be prepared for future pandemics and other stressful events, so that policymakers can consider alternative steps that take into account impact on people and how they respond to stress.”

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