The Role of Information Credibility in Emotional Responses and Engagement in Self-Protective Behaviour within Days of the COVID-19 Outbreak: A Cross-Sectional Study
15 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2020More...
Background: With changes in informational environment since the last global epidemic, high WHO officials have recently spoken about the need to not only fight the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also the related infodemic. In our research we thus explored how people search for information, how they perceive its credibility and how all this relates to their engagement in self-protective behaviours in the crucial period right after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Slovenia.
Method: The online questionnaire was circulated within 48 hours after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed. Information on participants’ demographics, perceptions of the situation, their emotional and behavioural responses to the situation (i.e., self-protective behaviour), their perceived subjective knowledge and their trust and perceived credibility of different sources of information was gathered. After testing the validity of measures, we looked into gender differences and relations of perceived credibility and trust with self-protective behaviours of 1717 participants.
Findings: We found that mass media, social media, and officials received relatively low levels of trust by the participants, while the public deems medical professionals and scientists most credible. Perceived credibility of information received was linked with lower levels of negative emotional responses, but also with higher adherence to much needed self-protective measures, aimed at containing the spread of the disease.
Interpretation: While the results might not be the same in societies with different levels of trust towards relevant governmental and professional institutions, and variances in self-protective behaviours scores explained by our model are modest, even a small boost in engagement in self-protective behaviours could go a long way in viral epidemics like the one we are faced with today.
Funding Statement: The authors received no funding for conducting the research.
Declaration of Interests: The authors state that there is no conflict of interest.
Ethics Approval Statement: The study was approved by the Ethics Commission of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana (no. 181-2020) and all participants gave their informed consent.
Keywords: COVID-19; Information credibility; Negative emotions; Self-protective behaviour; Psychological response
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