Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School and a former adviser to President Barack Obama, said people’s behavior will hinge in part on how trustworthy they view the leader offering the guidance.

“If the governor seems to be credible on the health topic,” Sunstein said, people are far more likely to be reassured “than if the governor seems to be responding to political pressure or seems to be scared of something.”

But, he added, community signals will also be crucial. “What do people see people like them doing?” Sunstein asked. “If people see everyone else staying home, they tend to think that’s the right thing to do, and they see everyone going out, they tend to think, ‘Well, I should go out, too.’”