We report the results of an online experiment with a representative sample of Australians. After seeing a hypothetical scenario where a new COVID-19 outbreak has been announced and the government has imposed some restrictions, participants received one of three intervention messages (or a no-message control) designed to reduce panic buying. They were then asked about their intentions to buy more than they needed (i.e., panic buy). Participants were also given a simulated behaviour task, modelled on the prisoner’s dilemma, where they could elect to ‘buy’ more than an amount they had previously indicated was reasonable for them. We find that a message that emphasises norms and reciprocity reduces simulated panic buying behaviours but not intentions, whilst a message that makes an appeal to morals reduces both panic buying intentions and simulated behaviours. We discuss implications and opportunities for further research.
JEL codes: D91, Z13
Keywords: Panic buying, consumer behaviour, COVID-19, game theory, prisoner’s dilemma