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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.

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Project Period:

2020 - 2022


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The purpose of this project is to study people's responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and their responses toward countermeasures taken by important social actors such as governments, businesses, and individuals during the pandemic. The project includes two work packages (WP). In WP1, we study how people in Norway react to the COVID-19 pandemic overtime. First, we have conducted three pre-studies: categorization of countermeasures taken by the Norwegian government from Feb. to August 2020, content-analysis of relevant media reports from a major national newspaper (Aftenposten) from March to Dec. 2020, and 18 interviews with various stakeholders in a local region of Western Norway in Fall 2020. Results from pre-studies 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. The main study in WP1 is a multiple-wave survey conducted in Norway with a national representative sample in 2021. This survey provides insight on how people's responses to the pandemic has changed over time. For instance, how their risk perception, emotional reactions, well-being, trust towards government agencies, and compliance behavior changed at different stages of the pandemic. In WP2, we study public responses toward countermeasures taken by three major social actors: government authorities, business, and individuals during the pandemic. Such an understanding is important because it can guide policymakers to implement countermeasures and communications that work best in case of a future pandemic. A pre-study has been conducted in Norway in winter 2020. The findings show that perceptions of the central social actors’ (for example government authorities) 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 and spreading negative word of mouth. 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, and it also leads to positive attitudes and trust toward these actors in people, which in turn lead to their positive reactions toward these actors and following recommendations from authorities. Such positive reactions are especially dominant among people at the political left wing. A second pretest has also been conducted in US in 2021 to further validate the questionnaire. The main study in WP2 includes field experiments in five countries (Norway, Italy, China, USA, and Kenya), which has been conducted in first half year of 2022. We compared how people’s responses towards government-, business-, and individuals' actions during a future pandemic situation across different cultural contexts. We also examined people's propensity to take new vaccines. The results provide us valuable insights on how people in different cultural contexts respond to future pandemics and give advice on cross-country collaborations during future pandemics.

The Project has generated four academic articles that have been submitted to highly ranked international journals, where one of them has just been published (British Journal of Social Psychology). One conference paper has also been accepted by one high-level scientific conference (EMAC, European Marketing Academy Conference). Two newspaper chronicles have been published in the regional press: one in Haugesund Avis (January 8th 2021) and one in Firda (July 5th 2022). A blog post has also been published in “Blog – TourNord” to communicate research results to an international audience. In addition, the project has also communicated its research activities and results through non-technical publications like web pages, social media platforms (Facebook), thus reaching indirectly the public community and the industry sector. Moreover, the project has produced outputs that have managerial implications for sectors that are at the key economic core of Norway such as the travel and tourism industry. A workshop for practitioners from the travel and tourism sector was arranged to communicate relevant findings from the project. The project also disseminated its research results with relevant stakeholders through participating an online meeting with Folkehelseinstituttet and through guest lectures to both national and international university audience.

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.

Publications from Cristin

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