How can I do better?

COVID-19 Vancouver Prevention Protest, May 3, 2020. Credit: GoToVan / CC-BY-2.0

With FDA approval for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Continuous surge in delta variantsGovernments around the world have updated their push to increase the number of vaccinated individuals by persuading holdouts. September 9, 2021 Announced by President Joe Biden He wiped out the vaccine obligations and expressed dissatisfaction with the foreclosure of the vaccine. “We are patient, less patient, and your refusal has burdened us all.”

As Communication scientist With someone who studied the influence of the media health In the last three decades of campaigns, I’m worried that the enthusiastic marketing of the vaccine message could make holdouts even more resistant. A direct and candid message for vaccination that worked for three-quarters of Americans may not work for the other quarter. If anything, they may backfire.

Studies have shown that some health communication techniques work better than others, depending on the audience. The lesson is that not only policy makers but also media, industry, and even parents and relatives can apply.

Research has identified when it comes to embracing new ideas and practices People in 5 categories: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majorities, Late Majorities, Laguards. With COVID-19 vaccination, it is the last two and is the most resistant to change.

Of this group Unvaccinated people There are quite a few — almost there 80 million people In the United States, they are vaccinated but remain unvaccinated, and it is they who can help the United States achieve herd immunity.However, research suggests that they are also angry with strong recommendations. I’m going to get vaccinated..

Powerful messaging can backfire

Public health messages can and do affect people, but they are not always in the intended direction. In 1999, I Testimony in US Congress About the powerful anti-drug message that can turn adolescents from drugs to drugs. Similarly, the strong wording of the current vaccine message may be arousing resistance rather than compliance.

examination This heading From a recent New York Times editorial: “Get a mask. Vaccine. The only way to get out of it.” This is 18 months that encourages people to stay home, wash and maintain their hands. Follows the public health message of. Avoid crowds..

Although they may have good intentions, health communication studies have shown that such instructional messages can be perceived as “high threat.”They can trigger What psychologists call “reactance”.. In other words, when an individual feels a threat to freedom of action, he or she often restores that freedom by trying to do what is prohibited or refusing to follow recommended actions. Motivated.

Recent research Even ads with instructional slogans such as Uber’s “no mask, no ride” and Heineken’s message “keep the bar open responsibly,” according to a colleague in my communications department at Penn State University. , Can frustrate consumers and reduce their likelihood. Take responsible action.

The reactance to COVID-19 messaging is apparent in the following format: Extensive protest In the world. Many people went to the streets and social media, With slogan “My body, my choice”, “Let me call my shot”, “Forced disagreement” and so on.

These reactions show positive resistance to the vaccine message, reflecting efforts to protect individual agents by claiming freedom of action, rather than simply hesitating to be vaccinated. ..

Invert the script

Freedom is an important concept in vaccination rhetoric. “Freedom, not power” is the cry of fighting protesters. “When we lose medical freedom, we lose all freedom.” Read poster.. “Choose freedom,” said Senator Rand Paul. Recent editorials Expresses his resistance to mask mandates and blockades. “We make our own health choices. We are not forced to show passports, wear masks, or be subject to random screening or testing.”

One way to counter this reactance is to change your communication strategy. Health communication researchers have found that simply changing the wording of a message can make a big difference.of One study According to a colleague at Pennsylvania State University who is studying health persuasion, researchers tested participants’ reactions to wise health behaviors such as dental floss. Now is the time to start. … Dental floss: That’s easy. Do it as you have to! Research participants responded to such messages by expressing their disagreements through anger and by countering the alleged behavior.

But then researchers paraphrased the same claim as less threatening. For example, “If you already have dental floss, keep doing a good job. If you don’t have dental floss, now may be a good time to start.” And “Dental floss: Easy. Would you like to give it a try? ”They found that participants had significantly lower reactance and higher message acceptance.

Similarly, softening the message and reducing dogmatic language can be the key to persuading unvaccinated people. This is because suggestive messages, rather than instructions, give people room to exercise their free will. Health communication research It also suggests several other strategies to reduce reactance, from providing choices to arousing empathy.

Bandwagon effect

Perhaps more importantly, given that people rely on smartphones and social networking, it’s better to take advantage of the technical capabilities of interactive media such as websites, social media, mobile apps and games. With the skillful use of digital media, you can convey a powerful health message without causing reactance.

Research in our laboratory Indicates that people’s reaction to media messages can be affected by the approval of others anonymously on the Internet. Consumers are dependent About other people’s opinions and star ratings for making online purchase Recent research, We have found that freedom-threatening health messages can become more palatable when accompanied by numerous likes on social media from other people. Powerful words did not appear to threaten their freedom more than the gentle version, when many others were considered to support the advocacy message.

In other words, it was found that the number of likes has a strong “bandwagon effect” in reducing reactance. We also found that providing the option to comment on health messages increased personal independence and made the message more acceptable.

another Recent experimentsWe have also found that the ability to customize, customize, or tailor your phone or online site to your liking is also useful for health communication.It’s a phone app, dating site, or Social media Customization of feeds and digital spaces allows people to reflect their personality. Looking at a health advocacy message in such a personalized space is less of a threat in such a place, as people feel reassured about their identity. Customization has been found to help reduce negative reactions to health messages by increasing the sense of identity.

Psychologically responsive communication strategies may allow holdouts to be actively vaccinated rather than generously complying with their obligations.

Interactive media reduces negative reactions to health messages and enhances compliance

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How can I do better?

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