Between the facts and the hard place: Trust judgments and affective responses in information-seeking processes during early COVID-19

Ivanka Pjesivac, S. Eldredge, E. Dalton, and L. Miller. (May 2022). “Between the facts and the hard place: Trust judgments and affective responses in information-seeking processes during early COVID-19.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association (ICA). Paris, France.

Abstract: This study examined the formation of trust judgments of information sources about COVID-19 and the role played by emotions in this information seeking process. Twenty-seven in-depth interviews with Americans revealed that the participants used both peripheral and central routes of information processing. Important peripheral credibility cues were: source credibility (source expertise, compassion, proximity, and tone of delivery) and message design cues were: concise and ordered presentation of information and scannability of presented information. A more in-depth information processing included comparing multiple sources of information about COVID-19 and distinguishing facts from opinion while looking for bias. These processes were accompanied by mainly negative emotions, such as frustration, anger, stress, anxiety, and resignation, and one positive emotion: hope. The results are interpreted in light of Risk Information Seeking and Processing (RISP) model and Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of information processing.

Factors that impact COVID-19 conspirational beliefs and health-related behaviors

Ivanka Pjesivac, Leslie Klein (PhD student), Wenqing Zhao (PhD student),Xuerong Lu (recently graduated PhD student), and Yan Jin. (May 2022). “Factors that impact COVID-19 conspirational beliefs and health-related behaviors.” Poster presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association (ICA). Paris, France.

Abstract: This study seeks to investigate the role of conspiratorial beliefs on health-related behaviors during COVID-19. Via an online survey with 1024 U.S. adults, we found that general belief in conspiracy theories, personal risk perceptions, news media distrust, and vaccine non-confidence are key predictors of COVID-19 conspiratorial beliefs, while COVID-19 vaccine confidence is the best predictor of actual vaccination behavior. Belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories mediates the relationship between general beliefs in conspiracy theories and avoidance behaviors.

Strategic communication and the global pandemic: Leading through unprecedented times

Juan Meng and R. Tench. “Strategic communication and the global pandemic: Leading through unprecedented times,” International Journal of Strategic Communication, 2022, 16(3), 357-363.

Abstract: This article serves as the introduction article of the special issue, titled Strategic Communication and the Global Pandemic. This special issue of the International Journal of Strategic Communication (IJSC) has one primary purpose – to stimulate serious scholarly research on strategic communication and its management and execution during challenging times, such as the COVID-19 global pandemic. To achieve this purpose, the special issue is organized into three sections covering many dimensions of strategic communication as it relates to the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first section includes research addressing how the messages are developed and constructed through governmental communication, traditional mass media, and social media. The second section focuses on exploring the contingencies that leaders and influencers at various levels need to address in this novel global crisis, as well as the practical, organizational, and societal challenges leaders face. The last section collects research reflecting on how effective public health responses and communication shall be developed. By providing a range of strategic communication scholarship grounded in different academic disciplines and cultural and political contexts, we believe this volume offers an international perspective for scholars and educators to understand the complexity of the topic itself.

Effective Communication Management in a Public Health Crisis: Lessons Learned about COVID-19 Pandemic through the Lens of Health Communication Executives

Taylor Voges (PhD candidate), Yan Jin, LaShonda Eaddy (PhD alum), Shelley Spector. (forthcoming). “Effective Communication Management in a Public Health Crisis: Lessons Learned about COVID-19 Pandemic through the Lens of Health Communication Executives.” Journal of Communication Management.

Abstract: This study aims to provide insights on the COVID-19 pandemic communication from the lessons learned by health communication executives—how they perceived the COVID-19 pandemic and recommend preparing for communication management of future public health crisis. A number of top health communication executives in the United States were interviewed, for their unique perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic. The contingency theory of strategic conflict management is used for qualitative deductive analysis, rendering several segmentations of key factors that drove organizational communication management decision making during the pandemic: organization characteristics, relationship characteristics, general external climate, external publics, and the issue under question. Health communication executives heavily relied on their past health communication experiences, which led to nuanced understandings of the COVID-19 pandemic. Theoretically, the contingency theory is furthered via an implied theoretical linkage between the construct of general external climate and the construct of external publics. Practically, the health communication executives urged future practitioners to constantly assess risks, hire and use diverse and representative decision-makers; set a communication protocol; and keep the communication in perspective.

Mask-wearing as an Unspoken Statement of One’s Identity during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract: Interpreting a facemask as an unspoken statement of one’s identity during the COVID-19 pandemic based on product symbolism theory, the present study examines the relationships among one’s trust in a) government, b) the scientific community, and c) the media, perceived similarity with other mask-wearers, and mask-wearing. Based on an online survey, this study found that participants’ trust in these health information sources was positively associated with perceived similarity with other mask-wearers, which then led to a higher level of mask-wearing behavior.

Communication in Context: How Culture, Structure and Agency Shape Health and Risk Communication about COVID-19 in Ghana

Abstract: Despite impressive strides toward proper health education about the pandemic, in resource-limited contexts, health information dissemination occurs within a structural context that restricts the enactment of agency and leads to further marginalization of the most vulnerable. Through observations of and reflections about Ghana’s work in health communication about the COVID-19 pandemic, this essay examines the key processes and outcomes of COVID-19 information dissemination in Ghana, highlighting the structural factors that contribute to health inequities during the pandemic. We argue that although Ghana has been commended continentally and globally for the country’s efforts in containing the virus and securing vaccines to vaccinate its populace, there is evidence of health information access disparities across the country especially in rural communities. In doing so, we increase knowledge about health information needs and gaps, and conclude by making recommendations for public health practitioners in Ghana and similar contexts.

Looking Ahead: Caregivers’ COVID-19 Vaccination Intention for Children 5 years old and younger

Abstract: Little research has been conducted to examine parents’ intention to vaccinate their young children for COVID19. An online survey with a national U.S. sample of 682 primary caregivers of children under age six assessed variables associated with intention to accept the COVID-19 vaccine for their children from November 13, 2020, to December 8, 2020. 

Caregivers whose child received a recent influenza vaccine, as well as those with previous experience COVID-19, were more likely to express COVID-19 vaccination intention for their young child. Identifying as female was associated with lower COVID-19 vaccination intention, while identifying as Hispanic or Latino was associated with higher intention. Health Belief Model variables of perceived severity of COVID-19 for their child, as well as vaccine confidence, were positive predictors of COVID-19 vaccine intention and mediated the relationship between prior behavior, demographic variables, and intention. The findings highlight the importance of early, proactive COVID-19 vaccination education efforts directed at caregivers with young children. Vaccines for young children will likely become a necessary part of ending the pandemic’s impact in school settings. Operationally, COVID-19 vaccination may also become a part of childhood vaccination schedules. Understanding the beliefs and intentions of caregivers of young children before vaccinations are recommended for children will enable public health officials and medical practitioners to prepare in advance. 

COVID-19 Vaccination and Public Health Communication Strategies: An In-depth Look at How Demographics, Political Ideology, and News/Information Source Preference Matter

Abstract: Widely accepted public health actions and recommendations, particularly those related to vaccines, are critical to U.S. and global responses to infectious disease pandemics, such as COVID-19. Drawing from nationally published COVID-19 public opinion polls as well as social and behavioral science related to vaccination acceptance, this study used a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults 18 years-old and older, undertaken in November-December 2020, to examine how four key demographic characteristics (sex, age, race/ethnicity, education), political ideology (liberal, moderate, conservative), and news/information source preference (liberal, conservative, balanced) were related to COVID-19 vaccination intentions, COVID-19 risk-benefit perceptions, interest and attention to COVID-19 information, self-reported level of being informed on key COVID-19 items, and trust and use of common COVID-19 information sources. Multiple associations were found, with most having important implications for strategic communication efforts related to COVID-19 vaccination and other preventive health recommendations.

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.