Leveraging Evidence-Based Messaging to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Anastasia Browning and Dr. Elliot Berkman, Department of Psychology, University of Oregon, 1227 University St, Eugene, OR 97403

With cases of COVID-19 surging in America, and the reality of a vaccine seemingly far out, our primary defense against this deadly virus is to mitigate its spread on an individual level. One important tool to slow the spread is our official messaging targeting individuals in hopes that they will follow appropriate mitigation procedures to reduce the transmission of the virus. Motivational research has long theorized that goal pursuit and self-regulation act as a dichotomous system with directionality, and how one frames these goals is expected to have a direct effect on the success and timely accomplishment of them. This study assessed whether approach-versus-avoidance message framing and goal-orientation affect individual intentions to follow mitigation procedures. To test this, subjects from an Amazon Mechanical Turk sample (n=862) were randomly assigned to view mitigation procedure messaging with either approach or avoidance framing, and either self-protective or altruistic goal orientation. Initial findings from Kruskal-Wallis tests revealed a significant effect of goal-orientation, suggesting that altruistic (over self-protective) goal orientations in COVID-19 health messaging lead to stronger intentions to follow mitigation procedures, even when controlling for important demographic factors such as age, gender, employment status, and religiosity. No significant effect of framing was found on individual intentions to follow mitigation procedures. These results provide a clear indication of the immediate need to address and adjust our message framing amid this global crisis. By using direct, intentional, and research-driven messaging, we can leverage our official communications as a prevention tool to bolster adherence to suggested mitigation protocols in hopes of protecting at-risk and vulnerable populations from contracting COVID-19.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Anastasia Browning

Institution: University of Oregon

Type: Poster

Subject: Psychology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 11
Date/Time: Wed 3:00pm-4:00pm
Session Number: 7052