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Dynamic public perceptions of emerging infectious diseases: A longitudinal study of avian flu

English title Dynamic public perceptions of emerging infectious diseases: A longitudinal study of avian flu
Applicant Bangerter Adrian
Number 122366
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution IPTO - Institut de Psychologie du Travail et des Organisations Université de Neuchâtel
Institution of higher education University of Neuchatel - NE
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.01.2009 - 31.03.2011
Approved amount 204'766.00
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Keywords (5)

emerging infectious diseases; avian influenza; social representations; threat; intergroup relations

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Emerging infectious diseases like AIDS, BSE or avian influenza have been identified by scientific and political authorities as a major threat to human survival. This project explores how the Swiss public thinks about avian influenza, including their perceptions of the threat it poses, its causes, transmission, and prevention. Massive research and policy efforts have been deployed to understand biological aspects of emerging infectious diseases. However, successfully containing them and limiting their impact on humans also requires scientific knowledge about how the public understands and reacts to the threat they pose. There is much less research on these issues. This project focuses on the case of avian flu, which has recently emerged in the public sphere as an acute threat. We adopt a social psychological perspective based on social representations research to study public knowledge of avian flu, its determinants, its variation, and its behavioral consequences. Integrating previous survey, qualitative and experimental research on perceptions of disease, threat, and intergroup relations with social representations theory, we seek to answer four research questions. First, how is public knowledge about avian flu organized? Second, how does knowledge vary according to demographic background and cultural differences? Third, how does knowledge affect relevant behavior (e.g., protection measures, consumer behavior, allocation of resources like medication, avoidance of members of other groups like foreigners or asylum seekers)? Fourth, how do relevant phenomena vary over time, in other words, how do knowledge and behavioral reactions evolve as a function of varying threat levels? This last question is particularly important, because emerging infectious diseases are, by definition, new to the public. Thus, knowledge may develop and change over time (as in the case of AIDS, for example).These questions will be answered in a longitudinal survey of a representative sample of the Swiss public. In addition, interviews will be conducted with smaller samples to explore qualitative aspects of public beliefs. Media analyses will also be conducted.The completed study will yield valuable data on the Swiss public's knowledge and beliefs about avian flu. The data will help us understand how the public reacts to disease-related threats in general. The data will contribute to existing theory in social psychology. Furthermore, the data may have implications for public health issues. For example, they may inform the design of disease prevention campaigns, or may highlight potential collective reactions to an acute pandemic threat.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Dynamic collective symbolic coping with disease threat and othering: A case study of avian influenza
Gilles Ingrid, Bangerter Adrian, Clémence Alain, Green Eva, Krings Franciska, Mouton Audrey, Rigaud David, Staerklé Christian, Wagner-Egger Pascal (2013), Dynamic collective symbolic coping with disease threat and othering: A case study of avian influenza, in British Journal of Social Psychology, 52, 83.
Preventing contagion with avian influenza: Attitudes toward foreigners moderate the relation between perceived threat and outgroup avoidance beliefs.
Krings Franciska, Green Eva, Bangerter Adrian, Staerklé Christian, Clémence Alain, Wagner-Egger Pascal, BornandThierry (2012), Preventing contagion with avian influenza: Attitudes toward foreigners moderate the relation between perceived threat and outgroup avoidance beliefs., in Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 1451.
Lay perceptions of collectives at the outbreak of the H1N1 epidemic: Heroes, villains and victims
Wagner-Egger Pascal, Bangerter Adrian, Gilles Ingrid, Green Eva, Rigaud David, Krings Franciska, Staerklé Christian, Clémence Alain (2011), Lay perceptions of collectives at the outbreak of the H1N1 epidemic: Heroes, villains and victims, in Public Understanding of Science, 20, 461.
Editorial Introduction
Bangerter Adrian, Green Eva, Gilles Ingrid (2011), Editorial Introduction, in Public Understanding of Science, 20, 442.
Trust in medical organizations predicts pandemic (H1N1) 2009 vaccination behavior and perceived efficacy of protection measures in the Swiss public
Gilles Ingrid, Bangerter Adrian, Clémence Alain, Green Eva, Krings Franciska, Staerklé Christian, Wagner-Egger Pascal (2011), Trust in medical organizations predicts pandemic (H1N1) 2009 vaccination behavior and perceived efficacy of protection measures in the Swiss public, in European Journal of Epidemiology, 26, 203.
Keeping the vermin out: Perceived disease threat and ideological orientations as predictors of exclusionary immigration attitudes
Green Eva, Krings Franciska, Staerklé Christian, Bangerter Adrian, Clémence Alain, Wagner-Egger Pascal, Bornand Thierry (2010), Keeping the vermin out: Perceived disease threat and ideological orientations as predictors of exclusionary immigration attitudes, in Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology,, 20, 299.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
University of Lausanne, Prof. Dr. F. Krings Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Geneva, Dr. C. Staerklé Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University College, London, Dr. H. Joffe Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University of Fribourg, Dr. P. Wagner Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Linz, Prof. Dr. W. Wagner Austria (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
11th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society 19.08.2009 Neuchâtel
32nd Annual Meeting of the International Society for Political Psychology 14.07.2009 Dublin


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
132023 Dynamic public perceptions of emerging infectious diseases: A longitudinal study of the H1N1 pandemic 01.02.2011 Project funding (Div. I-III)
132023 Dynamic public perceptions of emerging infectious diseases: A longitudinal study of the H1N1 pandemic 01.02.2011 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Emerging infectious diseases have been identified by scientific and political authorities as a major threat to human survival. Such diseases include AIDS, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and avian flu, but also exotic diseases like Ebola virus, as well as re-emerging diseases like tuberculosis. Massive and coordinated research and policy efforts have been deployed to understand biological aspects of these diseases. However, successfully containing them and limiting their impact on humans also requires scientific knowledge about how the public understands and reacts to the threat they pose. There is much less research on these issues.The planned research focuses on the case of avian flu, which has recently emerged in the public sphere as an acute threat. The risk of a pandemic (= sustained global epidemic) is now greater than ever. Thus, avian flu constitutes a timely natural case study to investigate the development of public knowledge and reactions to the threat of emerging infectious disease. We adopt a social psychological perspective based on social representations research to study public knowledge of avian flu, its determinants, its variation, and its behavioral consequences. Integrating previous survey, qualitative and experimental research on perceptions of disease, threat, and intergroup relations with social representations theory, we seek to answer four research questions. First, how is public knowledge about avian flu organized? Second, how does knowledge vary according to sociodemographic background and existing cultural belief systems? Third, how does knowledge affect relevant behavior (e.g., protection measures, consumer behavior, allocation of resources like medication, avoidance of outgroups)? An important focus is on how intergroup relations in general are affected by public knowledge about diseases. Fourth, how do relevant phenomena vary over time, in other words, how do knowledge and behavioral reactions evolve as a function of varying threat levels? This last question is particularly important, because emerging infectious diseases are, by definition, new to the public. Thus, knowledge may develop and change over time (as in the case of AIDS, for example).We explore these issues in ongoing research. We have constructed a questionnaire measuring variables related to the research questions and initiated a longitudinal study of the evolution of these variables, using the student population of French-speaking Swiss universities. There are currently three waves in the data set. The first wave (n = 520) was collected in December 2005, just after avian flu emerged as a major issue in the media. The second wave was collected six months later, in June 2006. This wave comprised 110 participants from the first wave as well as 242 new participants. The third wave was collected in June 2007. It comprised 90 participants from the first two waves as well as 299 new participants. We apply for 24 months of funding beginning October 1, 2008. We plan to conduct a longitudinal survey comprising two waves of data (n = 600 for each wave) from a sample of the general population. At each wave, we will also interview selected participants from the survey study (n = 30 each time). The interviews will yield complementary qualitative data on how public knowledge about avian flu is organized. The completed study will yield valuable data on the evolution of the Swiss public's knowledge about avian flu over several years. To our awareness, it will constitute a unique resource that can lead to new insights about how the public understands and reacts to disease-related threats in general. The data have the potential to contribute to existing theory in social psychology. Furthermore, valuable implications for public health issues (e.g., the design of disease prevention campaigns) may result from this research. We plan to seek publication of results in international peer-reviewed scientific journals in the fields of social psychology and public health. Furthermore, the results of the study will be made available to interested organizations in public health, to the general public and to the media.
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