Coronavirus is a highly infectious virus that can affect your lungs and airways.
In order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 disease, the Government is advising people to stay inside and work from home.
One of the main ways the Government is hoping to limit the spread of the disease is by encouraging people to wash their hands and not touch their face.
The Government was heavily using “nudge theory” to get us to do the “right thing” by making it easier, more normal and more obvious.
The NHS also says “do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean”.
As many will have experienced, this is easier said than done, as the average person touches their face 16 times an hour.
Now the enforcement has become increasingly stricter – with school, pubs and restaurant closures.
The Government is still “nudging” the public to practice social distancing, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned stricter measures could be implemented.
The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), also known as the nudge unit, a company part-owned by the Cabinet Office, is advising ministers on how best to implement the nudges.
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BIT has also come up with some ideas on how to stop you touching your face.
Simply telling someone not to touch their face won’t work.
If someone knowingly touches their face because of an itch or ache, BIT encourages substitute behaviours as an effective measure.
For example, substitute your fingers for the back of their wrist or arm, which is less exposed to infection.
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Meanwhile an unprompted touch of the face happens when someone is engaged in a separate activity.
The guidelines suggests a family member could say “face” or similar every time they touch their face.
This kind of social reinforcement may act as an intervention in itself, says BIT.
Cynthia McVey, former head of psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University told BBC: “Even if you’re very concerned about coronavirus, it’s very difficult to stop doing something like face-touching because it’s such a habit.
“There have been reports of people who are worried enough to wear masks who have still removed them so they can rub their nose.”
The nudge theory, which is already used by governments, aims to install better habits in the population.
This means changing social norms, rather than giving explicit “top-down” advice.
If enough people do something, you will feel a sense of missing out, or maybe guilt, if you don’t do the same.
Nudge theory has also been used to advise people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, and sneeze into your sleeves if tissues aren’t available.
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