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1.
J Exp Psychol Appl ; 28(3): 486-508, 2022 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2296543

ABSTRACT

The World Health Organization established that the risk of suffering severe symptoms from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is higher for some groups, but this does not mean their chances of infection are higher. However, public health messages often highlight the "increased risk" for these groups such that the risk could be interpreted as being about contracting an infection rather than suffering severe symptoms from the illness (as intended). Stressing the risk for vulnerable groups may also prompt inferences that individuals not highlighted in the message have lower risk than previously believed. In five studies, we investigated how U.K. residents interpreted such risk messages about COVID-19 (n = 396, n = 399, n = 432, n = 474) and a hypothetical new virus (n = 454). Participants recognized that the risk was about experiencing severe symptoms, but over half also believed that the risk was about infection, and had a corresponding heightened perception that vulnerable people were more likely to be infected. Risk messages that clarified the risk event reduced misinterpretations for a hypothetical new virus, but existing misinterpretations of coronavirus risks were resistant to correction. We discuss the need for greater clarity in public health messaging by distinguishing between the two risk events. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Humans
2.
Soc Sci Med ; 324: 115863, 2023 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2305804

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE: During the pandemic healthcare professionals and political leaders routinely used traditional and new media outlets to publicly respond to COVID-19 myths and inaccuracies. We examine how variations in the sources and messaging strategies of these public statements affect respondents' beliefs about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. METHODS: We analyzed the results of an experiment embedded within a multi-wave survey deployed to US and UK respondents in January-February 2022 to examine these effects. We employ a test-retest between-subjects experimental protocol with a control group. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions reflecting discrete pairings of message source (political authorities vs. healthcare professionals) and messaging strategy (debunking misinformation vs. discrediting mis-informants) or a control condition. We use linear regression to compare the effects of exposure to treatment conditions on changes in respondent beliefs about the potential risks associated with COVID-19 vaccination. RESULTS: In the UK sample, we observe a statistically significant decrease in beliefs about the risks of COVID-19 vaccines among respondents exposed to debunking messages by healthcare professionals. We observe a similar relationship in the US sample, but the effect was weaker and not significant. Identical messages from political authorities had no effect on respondents' beliefs about vaccine risks in either sample. Discrediting messages critical of mis-informants likewise had no influence on respondent beliefs, regardless of the actor to which they were attributed. Political ideology moderated the influence of debunking statements by healthcare professionals on respondent vaccine attitudes in the US sample, such that the treatment was more effective among liberals and moderates than among conservatives. CONCLUSIONS: Brief exposure to public statements refuting anti-vaccine misinformation can help promote vaccine confidence among some populations. The results underscore the joint importance of message source and messaging strategy in determining the effectiveness of responses to misinformation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Vaccines , Humans , COVID-19 Vaccines/adverse effects , COVID-19/prevention & control , Health Personnel , Linear Models , Mass Media , Vaccination , Communication
3.
Social science & medicine (1982) ; 2023.
Article in English | EuropePMC | ID: covidwho-2286955

ABSTRACT

Objective During the pandemic healthcare professionals and political leaders routinely used traditional and new media outlets to publicly respond to COVID-19 myths and inaccuracies. We examine how variations in the sources and messaging strategies of these public statements affect respondents' beliefs about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Methods We analyzed the results of an experiment embedded within a multi-wave survey deployed to US and UK respondents in January–February 2022 to examine these effects. We employ a test-retest between-subjects experimental protocol with a control group. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions reflecting discrete pairings of message source (political authorities vs. healthcare professionals) and messaging strategy (debunking misinformation vs. discrediting mis-informants) or a control condition. We use linear regression to compare the effects of exposure to treatment conditions on changes in respondent beliefs about the potential risks associated with COVID-19 vaccination. Results In the UK sample, we observe a statistically significant decrease in beliefs about the risks of COVID-19 vaccines among respondents exposed to debunking messages by healthcare professionals. We observe a similar relationship in the US sample, but the effect was weaker and not significant. Identical messages from political authorities had no effect on respondents' beliefs about vaccine risks in either sample. Discrediting messages critical of mis-informants likewise had no influence on respondent beliefs, regardless of the actor to which they were attributed. Political ideology moderated the influence of debunking statements by healthcare professionals on respondent vaccine attitudes in the US sample, such that the treatment was more effective among liberals and moderates than among conservatives. Conclusions Brief exposure to public statements refuting anti-vaccine misinformation can help promote vaccine confidence among some populations. The results underscore the joint importance of message source and messaging strategy in determining the effectiveness of responses to misinformation.

4.
Eur J Soc Psychol ; 51(6): 969-989, 2021 Oct.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1272177

ABSTRACT

We tested the link between COVID-19 conspiracy theories and health protective behaviours in three studies: one at the onset of the pandemic in the United Kingdom (UK), a second just before the first national lockdown, and a third during that lockdown (N = 302, 404 and 399). We focused on conspiracy theories that did not deny the existence of COVID-19 and evaluated the extent to which they predicted a range of health protective behaviours, before and after controlling for psychological and sociodemographic characteristics associated with conspiracy theory belief. COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs were positively correlated with beliefs in other unrelated conspiracies and a general conspiracy mind-set, and negatively correlated with trust in government and a tendency towards analytical thinking (vs. intuitive thinking). Unexpectedly, COVID-19 conspiracy believers adhered to basic health guidelines and advanced health protective measures as strictly as non-believers. Conspiracy believers were, however, less willing to install the contact-tracing app, get tested for and vaccinated against COVID-19, and were more likely to share COVID-19 misinformation-all of which might undermine public health initiatives. Study 3 showed conspiracy theory believers were less willing to undertake health protective behaviours that were outside of their personal control, perceiving these as having a negative balance of risks and benefits. We discuss models explaining conspiracy beliefs and health protective behaviours, and suggest practical recommendations for public health initiatives.

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