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HELSEVEL-Gode og effektive helse-, omsorgs- og velferdstjenester

Drivers of public responses toward Coronavirus outbreak and implications of social dynamics (COSD)

Alternative title: Reaksjoner i befolkningen på korona utbruddet og ulike tiltak mot pandemien.

Awarded: NOK 4.4 mill.

The purpose of this project is to study how crisis communication and social countermeasures taken by government authorities and other major actors influence public responses under a pandemic. This project will study public response toward countermeasures taken by three major actors: government authorities, business, and individuals. Such an understanding is important because it can guide policy makers to implement countermeasures and communications that work best in case of a future pandemic. A pre-study has been conducted in Norway. The findings show that perceptions of the central actors? (for example government authorities, business, and individuals) downplaying the consequences of the pandemic evoke people?s feeling of anger, contempt, and disgust. This also leads to negative attitudes and less trust toward these actors, which in turn lead to their negative responses such as complaints, spreading misinformation, and not to follow recommendations from authorities. On the other hand, perceptions of the central actors doing positive things to confront the danger of Covid-19, induce feeling of gratitude, elevation, and admiration; this also leads to positive attitudes and trust toward these actors in people, which in turn lead to their positive reactions such as support for vulnerable groups and following recommendations from authorities. In addition, individual differences such as political orientation also impact on people?s responses toward countermeasures taken by these actors. This project will further carry out field experiments in four countries (Norway, Italy, China, and USA) in order to compare possible similarities and differences of the public reactions across countries. These will be conducted in collaboration with researchers from USA, Italy, and China. In addition, multiple-wave surveys will be conducted in Norway within the project period. Researchers want to get answers to how public responses toward the pandemic and countermeasures change over time. Results from another pre-study show that fear and anxiety prevailed among people in the early stage of the pandemic and people had mixed views towards countermeasures taken at the national level. While some people were satisfied with the countermeasures, others considered the countermeasures either not strict enough or too strict.

As humanity is facing for the first time in contemporary history, a pandemic with such impactful and unpredictable effects, understanding the drivers of public responses toward the Coronavirus outbreak is essential. Emerging research in the areas of the public’s reactions toward similar epidemics (the Ebola crisis and the SARS epidemic) has been piecemeal. This project aim to apply a more holistic approach to investigate public responses toward the pandemic and actions taken by authorities, individuals and businesses. We develop and test an integrative social psychological theory that combines specific emotional, cognitive, evaluative, and individual difference variables that undergird the public’s reactions to social countermeasures taken to the outbreak of coronavirus. The project is organized in two working packages. WP1 studies public responses toward the outbreak of coronavirus and social countermeasures broadly through a longitudinal survey in Norway, which will exam naturally occurring relationships amongst psychological reactions over time to ascertain the direction of causality. WP2 examines the socio-psychological mechanism underlying public responses toward countermeasures taken by authorities, individuals, and business. Field experiment with adult respondents will be conducted across 4 countries (Norway, Italy, China and USA), which will provide stronger conclusions of causality. This project will contribute to knowledge advancement of the health and social psychology fields by providing an overarching framework to describe public responses toward present and future pandemics. The project output will also have a societal and policy impact by contributing to the management of the crisis both from short- and long-term standpoint. Policymakers can not only derive relevant feedback from predicting public reactions for their application of specific policies, but also anticipate and adjust to the fluctuations in public reactions to real societal changes.

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HELSEVEL-Gode og effektive helse-, omsorgs- og velferdstjenester