Assessing COVID-19 pandemic communication in China: What we know about the communication channels, sources of information, and key message retention

Abstract: This research presents the findings from a large-scale national online survey of Chinese citizens (N = 1,713) about their general knowledge of COVID-19 and the key communication channels that they used both during and after the pandemic. The perceived impact of COVID-19, personal safety concern, and information retention during the times of lockdown and post-pandemic were investigated over the four quarters of 2020. Particularly, we asked surveyed Chinese citizens to evaluate the quality of communication via three major categories of media channels (i.e., traditional media, digital media, and user-generated content on social media). Major sources of COVID-19 information and related source credibility were also investigated and compared.

Trusted sources of information, perceived quality in communication, and health knowledge retention: A national study of COVID-19 pandemic in China

Abstract: This research presents the findings from a large-scale national online survey of citizens in Mainland China about the perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the time of lockdown and post-pandemic. The study sheds light on the relationship between the trusted sources of COVID-19 information and the perceived quality in communication by jointly considering their impact on individuals’ knowledge retention of COVID-19 related facts. Results revealed that although individuals in China have relied on several major sources to seek COVID-19 information, the perceived quality of communication in user-generated content on social media remain lowest. Individuals’ knowledge retention on COVID-19 related health communication messages also varied by gender and by age. Implications of these findings for theory and public health practice are also discussed.

How Shades of Truth and Age Affect Responses to COVID-19 (Mis)information: Randomized Survey Experiment among WhatsApp Users in UK and Brazil

Abstract: We examined how age and exposure to different types of COVID-19 (mis)information affect misinformation beliefs, perceived credibility of the message and intention-to-share it on WhatsApp. Through two mixed-design online experiments in the UK and Brazil (total N = 1,454) we first randomly exposed adult WhatsApp users to full misinformation, partial misinformation, or full truth about the therapeutic powers of garlic to cure COVID-19. We then exposed all participants to corrective information from the World Health Organization debunking this claim. We found stronger misinformation beliefs among younger adults (18-54) in both UK and Brazil and possible backfire effects of corrective information among older adults (55+) in the UK. Corrective information from the WHO was effective in enhancing perceived credibility and intention-to-share of accurate information across all groups in both countries. Our findings call for evidence-based infodemic interventions by health agencies, with greater engagement of younger adults in pandemic misinformation management efforts.

An Investigation of Cognitive Processing of Fear Appeal Messages Promoting HPV Vaccination: Predictors and Outcomes of Magnitude and Valence of Cognitive Responses

Abstract: An improvement in HPV vaccination rates is one of the primary goals of public health organizations. Toward this end, fear appeal communication is commonly used in health interventions, warning individuals of threats of HPV infection and promoting vaccination. However, little is known about how threat-related emotions, such as fear and anxiety, influence the cognitive processing of vaccination information and how this processing is associated with vaccination intention. To address this void, this study tests a model drawing upon functional emotion theories and dual-process models of persuasion. Results from an experimental study showed that fear and anxiety, which arose from exposure to threat information, triggered motivation to process HPV protection-related information, which in turn, was positively associated with depth of HPV vaccination information processing. Subsequently, greater depth of processing led to a greater number of positive cognitive responses when participants were presented with information with a high (vs. low), level of response efficacy. Finally, greater positivity of cognitive responses predicted greater intention to obtain HPV vaccination. Collectively, our findings provide a theory-based explanation about how the sequential provision and processing of threat and efficacy information in fear appeals contribute to the promotion of HPV vaccination. Implications for designing fear appeal messages are discussed.

The Effects of User Comment Valence of Facebook Health Messages on Intention to Receive the Flu Vaccine: The Role of Pre-existing Attitude Toward the Flu Vaccine and Psychological Reactance.

Kim, Hanyoung (Grady PhD Student), Seo, Y.,(Grady PhD Student) Yoon, H. J., Han, J. Y., & Ko. Y.(Grady PhD Student), (Forthcoming).

Abstract: This study examined if and how Facebook user-generated comments about the flu vaccine influenced psychological reactance in conjunction with pre-existing flu vaccine attitude. Psychological reactance was further tested as a mediating factor influencing behavioural intention to receive the vaccine. An experimental study was conducted with 264 college students. The results showed that pre-existing attitude positively influenced participants’ intention to obtain the flu vaccine through an increase (a decrease) in psychological reactance when there was inconsistency (consistency) between the pre-existing attitude and valence of comments. Collectively, the results demonstrate that psychological reactance is one possible theoretical mechanism through which social media users’ health behaviours are influenced by user-generated comments.

How College Students Assess the Threat of Infectious Diseases: Implications for University Leaders and Health Communicators.

Abstract: Higher education institutions and their students face a wide range of infectious disease threats (IDTs). However, there is a lack of theory-driven research on how to provide communication for multiple IDTs to motivate protective action taking. To close this gap, this study focuses on college students and two IDT types: respiratory and sexually transmitted infections. We tested an IDT appraisal model with data from an online survey conducted at two U.S. universities with 842 students. Findings indicate that IDT type led to different patterns of threat appraisal and protective action taking intentions. More specifically, participants perceived sexually transmitted threats as significantly more predictable and more controllable than respiratory threats. Participants also had higher intention to take protective action in response to respiratory threats than sexually-transmitted threats. We also found that external-attribution-dependent (EAD) emotions (i.e., anger, sadness, surprise, and confusion) and an internal-attribution-dependent (IAD) emotion (i.e., hope) were sequential mediators in the relationship between IDT appraisal and protective action taking intentions for both infectious disease types. Implications for IDT communication research and practice are discussed.

Telling the Tale: The Role of Narratives in Helping People Respond to Crises.

Brooke Liu, Lucinda Austin, Yen-I Lee, Yan Jin, and Seoyeon Kim. (Forthcoming). “Telling the Tale: The Role of Narratives in Helping People Respond to Crises.” Journal of Applied Communication Research.

Abstract: During public health crises like infectious disease outbreaks, news media and governments are responsible for informing the public about how to protect themselves. A large body of health communication research finds that persuasive narratives motivate protective behaviors, such as intentions to vaccinate. In their seminal book on crisis narratives, Seeger and Sellnow (2016) theorized five narrative types: blame, renewal, victim, hero, and memorial. In this study, we tested how the public responds to crisis narratives about a hypothetical infectious disease crisis, modelled after narratives emerging from the 2014-2016 Ebola pandemic, through an online experiment with a U.S. adult sample (N = 1,050). Findings showcase which crisis narratives positively affect public protective behaviors as well as emotional responses, assessments of information credibility, and attributions of crisis responsibility.