Evaluating Prosocial COVID-19 Messaging Frames: Evidence from a Field Study on Facebook
Judgment and Decision Making, 15(6), 1037–1043
7 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2020 Last revised: 1 Dec 2020
Date Written: September 1, 2020
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has emphasized the need for effective health communications to coordinate individual behavior and mitigate disease transmission. Facing a pandemic, individuals may be driven to adopt public health recommendations based on both self-interested desires to protect oneself and prosocial desires to protect others. Although messages can be framed around either, existing research from the social sciences has offered mixed evidence regarding their relative efficacy. Informing this dialogue, in the current study we report on the findings of a field experiment (N = 25,580) conducted March 21–22 on Facebook during the critical initial weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. We observed that ad messages using a distant prosocial frame (“protect your community”) were in fact significantly less effective than those using a self-focused frame (“protect yourself”) in eliciting clickthroughs to official CDC recommendations. However, ad messages with a close prosocial frame (“protect your loved ones”) were equally effective as the self-focused frame. These findings catalog the differential efficacy of ad messaging strategies during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
Keywords: prosocial framing, social media, health messaging, COVID-19
JEL Classification: I1, M37, I12, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation