Effects of message framing, sender authority, and recipients' self-reported trait autonomy on endorsement of health and safety measures during the early COVID-19 pandemic

  • In the COVID-19 pandemic, human solidarity plays a crucial role in meeting this maybe greatest modern societal challenge. Public health communication targets enhancing collective compliance with protective health and safety regulations. Here, we asked whether authoritarian/controlling message framing as compared to a neutral message framing may be more effective than moralizing/prosocial message framing and whether recipients’ self-rated trait autonomy might lessen these effects. In a German sample (n = 708), we measured approval of seven regulations (e.g., reducing contact, wearing a mask) before and after presenting one of three Twitter messages (authoritarian, moralizing, neutral/control) presented by either a high-authority sender (state secretary) or a low-authority sender (social worker). We found that overall, the messages successfully increased participants’ endorsement of the regulations, but only weakly so because of ceiling effects. Highly autonomous participants showed more consistent responses across the two measurements, i.e., lower response shifting, in line with the concept of reactive autonomy. Specifically, when the sender was a social worker, response shifting correlated negatively with trait autonomy. We suggest that a trusted sender encourages more variable responses to imposed societal regulations in individuals low in autonomy, and we discuss several aspects that may improve health communication.

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Author:Elli Zey, Sabine Windmann
Parent Title (English):International journal of environmental research and public health
Place of publication:Basel
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2021/07/21
Date of first Publication:2021/07/21
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2021/08/17
Tag:COVID-19 regulations; authority; autonomy; framing; messaging; morality; prosocial behavior; social distancing
Issue:15, art. 7740
Page Number:12
First Page:1
Last Page:12
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften / Psychologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Open-Access-Publikationsfonds:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0