Project

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Public skepticism about emerging infectious diseases

English title Public skepticism about emerging infectious diseases
Applicant Bangerter Adrian
Number 132386
Funding scheme ProDoc
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 01.03.2011 - 31.03.2014
Approved amount 347'617.00
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Keywords (9)

emerging infectious diseases; social representations; trust in institutions; skepticism; public opinion; trust; cynicism; conspiracy theory; vaccination behavior

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Skeptical and cynical attitudes have developed out of the public's recent experience with the avian influenza (H5N1) and H1N1 outbreaks. These include perceptions that the crisis was exaggerated, perhaps even purposefully. Such perceptions and attitudes are critical to understand from a public health and social psychological point of view on emerging infectious diseases, because they are both novel, undocumented, and also of great import for practical efforts to manage disease risk. This project will describe the attitudes of skepticism and cynicism in two populations, the general public and health care professionals (nurses). Nurses are an interesting contrast case to the general public because they are health care professionals and an essential element of the public health response to disease outbreaks. Nevertheless, nurses exhibited a low rate of compliance with vaccination recommendations across Europe during the 2009 H1N1 vaccination campaign.Results from the project will contribute to understanding the current skepticism and lack of trust prevailing in the public mind relative to emerging infectious diseases. They will inform theories about lay knowledge, public opinion and media reception. The results will be practically relevant, for example to help design future public health prevention campaigns like vaccination campaigns, both for the public and for health professionals.
To answer the research questions, the project will sample participants from each of the above populations. In a first study, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with 80 participants (40 nurses and 40 members of the general public). In a second study, a survey will be conducted involving 800 participants (300 nurses and 500 members of the general public). Interviews will be content-analyzed to produced descriptive data on the content of skeptical and cynical attitudes. The results will inform the development of a survey that will yield representative data on the extent of skepticism and cynicism in the populations studied.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics Poster Discrepancy between official information and personal experience affects skepticism about emerging infectious diseases 26.06.2014 Lugano, Switzerland Emery Véronique; Bangerter Adrian; Maridor Mathieu;
Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics Poster Nurses’ skeptical attitudes towards emerging infectious diseases affect their vaccination intentions: the case of seasonal and pandemic influenza 26.06.2014 Lugano, Switzerland Emery Véronique; Maridor Mathieu; Bangerter Adrian;
13th biennial congress of the swiss psychological society Poster What do people remember about the 2009 H1N1 pandemic? 12.09.2013 bâle, Switzerland Emery Véronique; Maridor Mathieu; Bangerter Adrian;
13th biannual congress of the swiss psychological society Individual talk Nurses’ experiences of the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccination campaign in hospitals 12.09.2013 Bâle, Switzerland Emery Véronique; Maridor Mathieu; Bangerter Adrian;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Colloque de la section des maladies transmissibles, Office Fédérale de la Santé Publique Talk 10.09.2015 Berne, Switzerland Maridor Mathieu;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Restitution des résultats d'enquête à la direction des soins d'un hôpital participant 04.06.2014 Aigle, Switzerland

Awards

Title Year
Best Poster Award, Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics 2014, Lugano, Switzerland 2014

Abstract

The goal of the planned research is to extend scientific understanding about social psychological processes in public perceptions of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). The project aims to document a phenomenon called skepticism about EIDs. This phenomenon is a newly emerging public attitude characterized by doubts that EIDs constitute a real risk, or a perception that the degree of risk is exaggerated. A related, more extreme attitude is cynicism about EIDs, characterized by doubts about the truth of information about EID risk that is communicated to the public, as well as negative views of the intentions of institutions involved in combating EIDs. Skeptical and cynical attitudes have developed out of the public's recent experience with the avian influenza (H5N1) and H1N1 outbreaks. These attitudes are currently the most critical phenomenon to understand from a public health and social psychological point of view on EIDs, because they are both novel, undocumented, and also of great import for practical efforts to manage disease risk.Based on literature from public health, social psychology of disease and media psychology, a model is developed that conceptualizes the proximal cause of skeptical or cynical attitudes to EIDs as a perceived discrepancy between official information about EIDs and personal or shared experience. Two main moderator variables are postulated to affect the relation between a perceived discrepancy and skepticism or cynicism: trust in institutions and consumption of alternative media.The model will be tested in two studies, and interview study and a survey study. Two populations will be studied: the general public and nurses. Nurses constitute an interesting contrast case to the general public because they are health care professionals and an essential element of the public health response to disease outbreaks. Nevertheless, nurses exhibited a low rate of compliance with vaccination recommendations - a unique form of skeptical professional behavior. The interview study will involve 80 participants (40 nurses and 40 members of the general public). The surveys study will involve 800 participants (300 nurses and 500 members of the general public). The studies will be performed by 2 doctoral students in collaboration, one who will focus on nurses and the other on the general public.The planned research has important implications for understanding social psychological phenomena related to infectious diseases, as well as practical implications for communication and prevention related to infectious disease risk. The applicant and doctoral students will 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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