People who consider themselves invincible may undermine efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic, according to researchers at the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno. Their research may prove useful to public health professionals as it develops more effective messages to encourage people to get vaccinated and to take other steps to avoid spreading the risk of the virus.
Because they do not believe that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to their health, people who perceive themselves as invincible are less likely to accept the need to take measures such as wearing a mask to slow the spread of the disease. disease, and they are less likely to get vaccinated, the new study finds.
The research to be published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE was undertaken by Dr. James Leonhardt, associate professor of marketing; Dr Garret Ridinger, assistant professor of management; Yu Rong, doctoral student in management; and Dr Amir Talaei-Khoei, associate professor of information systems. They analyzed large-scale data collected in 51 countries by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Facebook.
Invincibility is particularly likely to threaten COVID-19 vaccination in people living in countries that place a high value on individualism – the United States, Canada, Britain – according to the study. Previous research has shown that feelings of invincibility are also linked to behaviors ranging from risky driving to heavy drinking.
Leonhardt said research supports his observation that emotions often play a more important role than rational analysis when individuals assess personal risk. This provides an opening for successful campaigns to encourage vaccination.
“For marketing communications, such as public health campaigns, I would encourage the use of emotional appeals rather than rational appeals; in particular, emotional appeals that encourage empathy for those affected by the disease, concern for taking action to protect others, and hope for a better future by doing our part to protect those more vulnerable than ourselves Said Leonhardt.
Empathy, he said, plays a particularly key role.
“Having empathy for others – caring about whether others get sick or die from COVID-19 – predicts vaccine acceptance, and by fostering empathy we may be able to reduce the effects involuntary invincibility of collective health during a pandemic, ”Leonhardt said.
In a follow-up study on the same data set, Rong and Talaei-Khoei found how the trust people place in information sources plays an important role in their decisions to get vaccinated. Rong and Talaei-Khoei also found that not only can feeling invincible to COVID-19 cause people not to get vaccinated, but also if people do not perceive any risk to their community from the disease, it would have a negative impact. on their decision.