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In COVID-19 health messaging, loss framing increases anxiety with little-to-no concomitant benefits: Experimental evidence from 84 countries

Dorison, Charles and Lerner, Jennifer Susan and Heller, Blake H. and Rothman, Alexander and Kawachi, Ichiro I. and Wang, Ke and Rees, Vaughan W. and Gill, Brian P. and Gibbs, Nancy and Hanel, Paul HP and Sirota, Miroslav and Chiu, Faith and Holford, Dawn Liu and Theodoropoulou, Andriana and Coles, Nicholas Alvaro and et al, (2022) 'In COVID-19 health messaging, loss framing increases anxiety with little-to-no concomitant benefits: Experimental evidence from 84 countries.' Affective Science. ISSN 2662-205X (In Press)

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic (and its aftermath) highlights a critical need to communicate health information effectively to the global public. Given that subtle differences in information framing can have meaningful effects on behavior, behavioral science research highlights a pressing question: Is it more effective to frame COVID-19 health messages in terms of potential losses (e.g., “If you do not practice these steps, you can endanger yourself and others”) or potential gains (e.g., “If you practice these steps, you can protect yourself and others”)? Collecting data in 48 languages from 15,929 participants in 84 countries, we experimentally tested the effects of message framing on COVID-19-related judgments, intentions, and feelings. Loss- (vs. gain-) framed messages increased self-reported anxiety among participants cross-nationally with little-to-no impact on policy attitudes, behavioral intentions, or information seeking relevant to pandemic risks. These results were consistent across 84 countries, three variations of the message framing wording, and 560 data processing and analytic choices. Thus, results provide an empirical answer to a global communication question and highlight the emotional toll of loss-framed messages. Critically, this work demonstrates the importance of considering unintended affective consequences when evaluating nudge-style interventions.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Message framing; Anxiety; Nudges; Covid-19
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2022 09:22
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2022 09:22
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/32959

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