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Disease outbreaks in U.S. animal livestock industries have economic impacts measured in hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Biosecurity, or procedures intended to protect animals against disease, is known to be effective at reducing infection risk at facilities. Yet, to the detriment of animal health, humans do not always follow biosecurity protocols. Human behavioral factors have been shown to influence willingness to follow biosecurity protocols. Here we show how social cues may affect cooperation with a biosecurity practice. Participants were immersed in a simulated swine production facility through a graphical user interface and prompted to make a decision that addressed their willingness to comply with a biosecurity practice. We tested the effect of varying three experimental variables: (1) the risk of acquiring an infection, (2) the delivery method of the infection risk information (numerical vs. graphical), and (3) the behavior of an automated coworker in the facility. We provide evidence that participants changed their behavior when they observed a simulated worker making a choice to follow or not follow a biosecurity protocol, even though the simulated worker had no economic effect on the participants' payouts. These results advance the understanding of human behavioral effects on biosecurity protocol decisions, demonstrating that social cues need to be considered by livestock facility managers when developing policies to make agricultural systems more disease resilient.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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© 2020 Trinity, Merrill, Clark, Koliba, Zia, Bucini and Smith.



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