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Protect Purdue Pledge Improving Research


This paper discusses COVID-19 and methods of improving Protect Purdue Pledge compliance. It proposes a simple ritual that can be employed before making potentially risky decisions, consisting of a series of arbitrary gestures performed in a specific order. The ritual aims to help the person concentrate and consider the situation carefully before committing. The study is a quantitative survey that separates participants into two groups and asks them to perform either the ritual or a random series of gestures before making a hypothetical decision. It finds that, while the participants found the ritual meaningful, it did not affect their decision to act prosocially or antisocially. While the study’s design may be flawed, its results still warrant consideration, as it found overwhelming PPP compliance among the participants.

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COVID-19 is a large-scale worldwide crisis that affects people of all social positions. Organizations such as the WHO have developed measures that can help combat it, but their effectiveness at combating the spread of the disease has been disputed. A large reason for their ostensible failure is non-compliance, with people refusing to follow the rules, consciously or otherwise. Purdue University has created a list of rules for its community members that it calls the Protect Purdue Pledge (PPP). While designed to minimize the danger that the disease presents, it is subject to the same problems as the other guidance systems. This study aims to research a method of potentially increasing PPP compliance and safe behavior through the performance of a simple ritual.

Literature Review

It is beneficial to watch the weekly data updates by the World Health Organization. One of the latest reports confirms that the overall number of infected persons has reached around 2,2 million throughout all of the six regions (World Health Organization, 2020). The virus continues to progress. One of the most common symptoms is the loss of smell, which can take fifteen days for recovery (Ceron et al., 2020). Experts have to operate on the most efficient practices in clinical care, treatment, the contradiction to viral transmission, and ethical considerations (Rusch & Wexner, 2020). America remains more infected than in other regions and needs more productive care.

Hygiene and social isolation are the key ways to prevent the infection from spreading. First of all, self-isolation is crucial for those who demonstrate relevant symptoms, which makes it beneficial for them to stay home for at least ten days (Public Health England, 2020). Self-isolation can be interrupted after the negative test results. The norms of social distancing include such steps as washing hands, covering the face when in public, and staying two meters away from others (Cabinet Office, 2020).

The pandemic has become a global health challenge. The cost of the fatalities reaches billions of dollars (Chakraborty, & Maity, 2020). It has resulted in an economic slowdown for China, America, India, and other countries. The United Stations overview indicates severe impacts on the populations’ well-being. People with disabilities, poverty and an elderly age group are the most troubled (Department of Economic and Social Affairs Social Inclusion, 2020).

This current study seeks to determine whether or not rituals combined with reminders about the Protect Purdue Pledge could effectively help students make safer and socially conscious choices.

Hypothesis Development

Extensive guidelines for COVID-19 are already present and actively disseminated using various media. The Protect Purdue Pledge does not differ significantly in its contents from most of those rules. With that said, people still dismiss the guidance and ignore it, whether intentionally or otherwise. This study operates under the assumption that the reason why they do so is that they forget about the severity of COVID-19 or specific rules at the moment. As such, if they take some time to concentrate and reflect on the PPP in relation to their current situation, they should be able to make a more informed and likely safer choice. A symbolic ritual that involves a number of simple measures is an excellent way of achieving such a state. As such, the notion that arises is that introducing students to a simple yet specific set of gestures can help them make superior decisions.

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Research Question and Hypothesis

The research question established before is, “How effective are simple rituals in helping individuals behave safely and prosocially?” The null hypothesis, the one that asserts no relationship, states, “Performing a ritual beforehand will have no effect on a person’s COVID-19 risk-related decision.” If it is confirmed, then there is no reason to perform the ritual, and the idea should most likely be abandoned. The alternate hypothesis, “Performing a ritual before considering a decision associated with COVID-19 risks increases the chances of the safe option being selected,” is the null hypothesis’s counterpart. If this notion is confirmed, the ritual may be tested further and considered for adoption among Purdue students and staff to help limit the spread of the disease.


Study Participants

As the study concerns the Protect Purdue Pledge, individuals who were aware of it and to whom it would be relevant were selected. A total of 201 participants were recruited from Purdue University, PSY 203 class. Thirty-one then dropped out before the research could proceed to the next stage and they could be surveyed. They were randomly separated into two different same-size groups: one that would perform one of the two predetermined rituals and a control set that would engage in a less structured and more random series of activities. Following the survey, another 9 participants had to be eliminated from the ritual group for a variety of reasons and another 14, from the random team. As a result, a total of 147 participants remained 76 in the first set and 71 in the second.


Following the randomization, the students were offered a survey. It began by presenting them with a statement that outlined the purpose of the study and asked for their informed consent to participate, which they could withdraw at any time, including after completion. It then asked them about their awareness and perception of COVID-19 as well as the PPP and presented them with a hypothetical scenario that involves a potential infection risk. The ritual, which is a sequence of gestures that the ritual group participants had to follow in order and the random group could perform in any sequence, followed. Two variations were available for each version of the portion, provided to respondents at random. The participants were then asked to make their decision regarding the situation and opinions regarding the ritual as well as its effects on them. Finally, the survey collected their demographic data and thanked them for their participation.


The survey was quantitative in nature, with each question existing in closed form and translating the result into a numeric value using Likert scales. It was then processed, tested for manipulation, and input in statistical software. There were three particular areas of interest for the dataset: reliability, the difference in responses to the ritual, and the effect of performing it on one’s decisions. For the first, Cronbach’s alpha was calculated using the questions pertaining to the person’s view of the ritual. For the second, a t-test was conducted using the same values to determine whether participant responses were meaningfully different when the actions were performed in a predetermined sequence. Lastly, a chi-square test was used for the participant’s decision to take the risky action or avoid it to compare the two groups.


Normal distribution of results for the two samples.
Figure 1. Normal distribution of results for the two samples.

Two principal tests were performed in the course of the experiment: one that concerned the ritual and another that discussed prosocial or antisocial behavior. With regard to the former, the people were asked for their opinion on whether the actions they took were meaningful. The random group was asked to perform a set of gestures in any order, while for the ritual group, a sequence was outlined that had to be followed. Based on the average of the four questions asked, a difference was found in the means of the results. This difference is statistically significant, with the p-values in both the one-tail and two-tail t-tests below 1%. It should also be noted that, as fig. 1 indicates, the responses for the ritual category followed a normal distribution much more closely than those in the random group.

Percentage of people in the sample making the prosocial choice.
Figure 2. Percentage of people in the sample making the prosocial choice.

In the context of the hypothetical situation provided, going to one’s friend’s party where Protect Purdue Pledge is not followed is antisocial, while declining to do so is prosocial. In the ritual group, 71 participants made the prosocial choice while 5 made the antisocial one, while for the random sample, the figures were 68 and 3, respectively. Fig. 2 shows that, contrary to expectations, the percentage of random category members that made the prosocial choice is higher than that in the ritual group. However, the chi-square value is 0.4, which corresponds to a p-value of 0.53. As such, there is a high probability that the difference between the two groups is not meaningful but rather the result of random chance. Hence, the null hypothesis that there is no relationship between rituals and safe choices is confirmed, and the alternative hypothesis is rejected.


The confirmation of the t-test means that the participants saw the ordered actions as more meaningful and ritual-like than those ordered randomly. As such, they would likely have concentrated on them more, leading them to consider the following question about the party in more detail. With that said, the central hypothesis that there would be a difference was still rejected. Considering the overwhelming proportion of prosocial choices among both groups, it is likely that the students were already aware of the dangers and did not need to focus on them. The steps prescribed in the Protect Purdue Pledge are already present in most guidance provided, such as that by Cabinet Office (2020). As such, students are already aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and its risk factors.

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Participant responses to potentially leading questions about the PPP.
Figure 3. Participant responses to potentially leading questions about the PPP.

With that said, the validity of the study is in question, as the reliability test produced a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.625, which is not high enough to be confident. The theoretical design may also have issues, as it contains leading questions that may bias the respondents against attending the party, as shown by the responses to some of them in fig. 3. Moreover, it assumes that the respondent was conscientious enough to ask about PPP compliance in advance, which may not necessarily be the case in practice. Still, if taken to be accurate, the findings suggest that people are aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and make decisions that guide them to safety. As such, future research should focus on the reasons why people may refuse to do so as well as the meaningfully effective measures.


Cabinet Office. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19): Social distancing. Gov. Web.

Ceron, D., et al. (2020). Self-reported loss of smell without nasal obstruction to identify COVID-19. The multicenter Coranosmia cohort study. Journal of Infection, 81(4), pp. 614-620. Web.

Chakraborty, I., & Maity, P. (2020). COVID-19 outbreak: Migration, effects on society, global environment and prevention. Science of The Total Environment, 728(1). Web.

Department of Economic and Social Affairs Social Inclusion. (2020). Everyone included: Social impact of COVID-19. United Nations. Web.

Public Health England. (2020). Stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Gov. Web.

Rusch, V., & Wexner, S. (2020). The American College of Surgeons responds to COVID-19. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 231(4), pp. 490-496. Web.

World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). World Health Organization. Web.

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