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Article

Effects of Message Framing, Sender Authority, and Recipients’ Self-Reported Trait Autonomy on Endorsement of Health and Safety Measures during the Early COVID-19 Pandemic

Institute for Psychology, General Psychology II, Goethe University Frankfurt, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
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Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(15), 7740; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157740
Received: 10 June 2021 / Revised: 15 July 2021 / Accepted: 18 July 2021 / Published: 21 July 2021
In the COVID-19 pandemic, human solidarity plays a crucial role in meeting this maybe greatest modern societal challenge. Public health communication targets enhancing collective compliance with protective health and safety regulations. Here, we asked whether authoritarian/controlling message framing as compared to a neutral message framing may be more effective than moralizing/prosocial message framing and whether recipients’ self-rated trait autonomy might lessen these effects. In a German sample (n = 708), we measured approval of seven regulations (e.g., reducing contact, wearing a mask) before and after presenting one of three Twitter messages (authoritarian, moralizing, neutral/control) presented by either a high-authority sender (state secretary) or a low-authority sender (social worker). We found that overall, the messages successfully increased participants’ endorsement of the regulations, but only weakly so because of ceiling effects. Highly autonomous participants showed more consistent responses across the two measurements, i.e., lower response shifting, in line with the concept of reactive autonomy. Specifically, when the sender was a social worker, response shifting correlated negatively with trait autonomy. We suggest that a trusted sender encourages more variable responses to imposed societal regulations in individuals low in autonomy, and we discuss several aspects that may improve health communication. View Full-Text
Keywords: autonomy; morality; authority; prosocial behavior; framing; messaging; COVID-19 regulations; social distancing autonomy; morality; authority; prosocial behavior; framing; messaging; COVID-19 regulations; social distancing
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MDPI and ACS Style

Zey, E.; Windmann, S. Effects of Message Framing, Sender Authority, and Recipients’ Self-Reported Trait Autonomy on Endorsement of Health and Safety Measures during the Early COVID-19 Pandemic. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 7740. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157740

AMA Style

Zey E, Windmann S. Effects of Message Framing, Sender Authority, and Recipients’ Self-Reported Trait Autonomy on Endorsement of Health and Safety Measures during the Early COVID-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(15):7740. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157740

Chicago/Turabian Style

Zey, Elli, and Sabine Windmann. 2021. "Effects of Message Framing, Sender Authority, and Recipients’ Self-Reported Trait Autonomy on Endorsement of Health and Safety Measures during the Early COVID-19 Pandemic" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 15: 7740. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157740

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