The Persuasive Effects of Narrative PSAs on COVID-19 Vaccination Intention: The Mediating Role of Empathy and Psychological Reactance

Abstract: Successful COVID-19 vaccine promotion for the unvaccinated relies on increasing positive reactions but also reducing negative responses to persuasive messages. The current study examined the relative effects of narrative vs. non-narrative public service announcements (PSAs) promoting COVID-19 vaccination on both positive and negative reactions. We explored the role of empathy and psychological reactance as underlying mechanisms. Results of an experiment involving unvaccinated young adults indicate that the narrative (vs. non-narrative) PSAs led to greater empathy. While no direct effects of message type emerged on psychological reactance or vaccination intention, results of a serial multi-mediator model confirmed that empathy and psychological reactance mediated the effects of message type on vaccination intention, yielding theoretical and practical implications for research and practice in COVID-19 vaccination and health communication.

How Emotional Appeals in Health Promotion Messages and User-generated Comments Impact COVID-19 Vaccination Intention: The Mediating Role of Psychological Reactance

Abstract: To close existing research gap and combat vaccine hesitancy among young adults, we conduct this study to integrate psychological reactance theory to better understand the effectiveness of three emerging yet understudied emotional appeals (i.e., guilt, shame, and pride) in health risk context. The current research has two goals: (1) to examine how different emotional appeals (guilt vs. shame vs. pride) and user-generated comments toward COVID-19 vaccine messages independently or interactively affect psychological reactance and (2) to understand the mediating role of psychological reactance between emotional appeals and user-generated comments and desired behavioral outcomes. An experimental study with 3 (guilt vs. shame vs. pride) by 2 (positive-valenced comments vs. negative-valenced comments) between-subjects factorial design will be conducted with college students (aged 18-24) at a large public university in the United States. Our findings strengthen the theoretical foundation on how health risk messages with user-generated comments interactively can predict undesired health outcomes. Our study also helps health organizations design more effective messages targeting at young adults by lowering psychological reactance and enhancing persuasive power in motivating COVID-19 vaccination.