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Public Underst Sci ; 31(6): 799-817, 2022 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1854657

ABSTRACT

During the COVID-19 pandemic, virologists gained a prominent role in traditional and social media in Germany; several participated in regular podcasts. Using a two-wave survey (n = 696/361 at Time 1/2), we explore which impact the strong media presence of virologists had on media users and what role parasocial phenomena (asymmetric interactions and relationships with virologists) played. People who favored a specific virologist scored higher on various cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes. Exposure to the virologist was related to these outcomes and parasocial phenomena turned out as an intervening variable between exposure and subjective and objective knowledge (time 1), solace, and behavioral engagement (both times). We did not, however, find effects over time when controlling for the time 1 values, which rather speak against more long-term media effects. A higher need for leadership also predicted the formation of parasocial phenomena. We discuss the theoretical implications for the role of parasocial phenomena in science communication via digital media.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Social Media , COVID-19/epidemiology , Communication , Germany/epidemiology , Humans , Internet , Interpersonal Relations , Pandemics
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