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Predicting the endorsement of preventive behaviors in the context of the Corona virus pandemic: Examining temporal dynamics and the role of risk communication

English title Predicting the endorsement of preventive behaviors in the context of the Corona virus pandemic: Examining temporal dynamics and the role of risk communication
Applicant Scholz Urte
Number 196405
Funding scheme Special Call on Coronaviruses
Research institution Sozialpsychologie Psychologisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.06.2020 - 30.06.2022
Approved amount 368'212.00
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Keywords (7)

protective behavior; prosocial behavior; age differences; risk perception; behavior change; risk communication; social distancing

Lay Summary (German)

Dieses Projekt untersucht die Faktoren, die zur Einhaltung der Verhaltensempfehlungen des Bundesamts für Gesundheit (BAG) zur Eindämmung der-Pandemie des neuartigen Coronavirus SARS-CoV2 beitragen im Zeitverlauf von Beginn des Lockdowns in der Schweiz bis ins Jahr 2021 im Rahmen repräsentativer Befragungen. Weiter wird anhand eines Experiments die Art und Rolle von Risikokommunikation im Kontext der Pandemie für die Einhaltung der Verhaltensempfehlungen untersucht.
Lay summary

Das Ziel des vorliegenden Projekts ist es, besser zu verstehen, was für die Einhaltung der Verhaltensempfehlungen des Bundesamts für Gesundheit (BAG) im Kontext einer Pandemie besonders wichtig ist und ob und wenn ja, wie sich das über den Verlauf einer Pandemie verändert. Da es noch keinen Impfstoff oder Medikamente gegen das neuartige Coronavirus gibt, ist die derzeit einzige verfügbare Massnahme zur Eindämmung der Pandemie die Einhaltung der Verhaltensempfehlungen des BAG. Das vorliegende Projekt untersucht anhand repräsentativer Befragungen auf Basis gesundheitspsychologischer Theorien, welche Faktoren besonders wichtig für die Einhaltung der Verhaltensempfehlungen sind. Besonders betrachtet werden die wahrgenommenen Risiken für sich selbst und das eigene soziale Umfeld und z.B. das Zutrauen, dass man es schaffen kann, sich wie empfohlen zu verhalten (Selbstwirksamkeit). Weiter wird untersucht, ob es Unterschiede zwischen jüngeren und älteren Bürger*innen in diesen wahrgenommenen Risiken und bei der Einhaltung der Verhaltensempfehlungen gibt. Diese Zusammenhänge werden über den Zeitraum von kurz nach Beginn des Lockdowns in der Schweiz bis 2021 anhand von repräsentativen Befragungen, die etwa alle zwei Monate stattfinden, überprüft. Darüber hinaus wird anhand eines Experiments die Rolle und die Art der Risikokommunikation hinsichtlich der Befürwortung präventiver Massnahmen untersucht.

Die beiden Studien ermöglichen neue Einsichten, was wann besonders relevant für die Einhaltung von empfohlenen Verhaltensweisen im Kontext einer Pandemie in der Schweizer Bevölkerung ist und wie das Risiko kommuniziert werden sollte. Dadurch können sowohl Individuen besser geschützt als auch politische Entscheidungsträger*innen besser beraten werden.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 28.05.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


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126868 Social Approach and Avoidance Motivation - The Role of Age 01.01.2010 Project funding


The current situation of the ongoing new Corona virus pandemic offers a rare chance to investigate the dynamics of the relation between perceived risks for oneself and one’s social environment, known health-behavior related factors (i.e., self-efficacy, perceived efficacy of different preventive behaviors, perceived social norms), and the self-reported intention and adoption of protective behaviors over time. We propose two studies to investigate the changes in risk perception, health-behavior related factors, and self-reported preventive behaviors over time in a representative sample of the Swiss population (Study 1) and the role of risk communication for the endorsement of preventive measures (Study 2).As the prevention of a further spreading of the virus crucially depends on measures of “social distancing,” we maintain that it is essential to investigate the role of the perceived risk to oneself and others as one of the key predictors of the intention to adopt social distancing behaviors. We hypothesize that younger adults are less likely than older adults to perceive the risk they pose to transmitting the new Corona virus and the resulting potential harm to others. The lower perceived other-related risk, in turn, is hypothesized to lower the likelihood of adopting social distancing behaviors. Based on research demonstrating the effect of risk communication on prosocial behavior (Slovic, 2007), we propose an experiment that compares if different ways to communicate the risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus either to an individual or to a group of people (Study 2) affect particularly younger adults’ endorsement of preventive behaviors in general and social distancing in particular, as well as pandemic-related prosocial behavior. Given that the level and importance of determinants are bound to change across the development of the pandemic, we propose Study 1 as an 8 months longitudinal study with a sample representative of the general adult population of Switzerland. Given the urgency to start data collection, the University of Zurich has agreed to fund a first measurement point taking place during the last week of March 2020. As time is key not only for handling the breakout, but also for assessing the changes in determinants of the preventive behaviors, a second measurement point is planned for the first week of May 2020, pending the funding of this second assessment through a grant proposal submitted to the «Suzanne and Hans Biäsch Stiftung zur Förderung der Angewandten Psychologie». With this proposal, we hope to be able to turn Study 1 into a longitudinal study covering in total a period of 8 months with monthly assessments. Such a longitudinal, multi-measurement, representative study on the dynamic interplay of risk perception, and other evidence-based factors contributing to health behavior, and the currently only available measures to curb the further spread of the pandemic, namely the adoption of preventive behaviors by individuals, has never been conducted before. A unique and novel study like this in combination with experimental data on prosocial behavior during pandemics are of key importance for informing future theory- and evidence-based effective interventions in the case of epidemics or pandemics.