Document Type



Final Published Version

Publication Title

Annals of Behavioral Medicine



Publication Date




Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, prevention behavior adoption occurred in a rapidly changing context. In contrast to expectancy-value theories, the Prototype Willingness Model (PWM) is well-suited for investigating novel and socially informed behaviors. Purpose

We explored whether PWM social cognitions predicted coronavirus prevention behaviors. Method

A representative sample of United States adults (N = 738; Mage = 46.8; 51.8% women; 78% white; April 2020) who had not had COVID-19 reported PWM predictor variables (perceived vulnerability, prevention descriptive norms, prototypes engaging in prevention behavior, and prevention behavioral intentions). Two weeks later, participants reported their prevention behaviors (handwashing, mask-wearing, social distancing, etc.) and future public health behavioral willingness (contact tracing, temperature checks, etc.). Results

Controlling for putative demographic, past behavior, and coronavirus-contextual (e.g., local infection rates) covariates, mediation models indicated that higher norms and favorable prototypes were associated with greater prevention behavioral intentions, which in turn predicted increased prevention behavior, F(18, 705) = 92.20, p < .001, R2 = .70. Higher norms and favorable prototypes associated both directly and indirectly (through greater prevention behavioral intention) with greater willingness to engage in emerging public health behaviors, F(15, 715) = 21.49, p < .001, R2 = .31. Conclusions

Greater descriptive norms and favorable prototypes for prevention behavior predicted: (a) future prevention behaviors through increases in behavioral intentions and (b) willingness to participate in emerging public health behaviors. These results held across demographic groups, political affiliation, and severity of regional outbreaks. Public health efforts to curb pandemics should highlight normative prevention participation and enhance positive prototypes.