Improving behavioural compliance with the COVID-19 precautionary measures by means of innovative communication strategies: Social experimental studies
van Empelen, P.
van Keulen, H.M.
Objectives: Behavioural measures such as social distancing are crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People sometimes have difficulty to comply with these behavioural measures for various reasons. Insight is needed into evidence-based strategies that can promote compliance. In the present study, we examined whether behaviour change techniques (volitional help sheet (VHS), behavioural journalism (BJ) and empathy inductions (EI)) could promote behavioural compliance with the COVID-19 measures. Methods: Three online experiments were carried out (N = 424-593) among Dutch adult citizens, using a randomized 2-group post-test and 1-week follow-up design. In each experiment, a control group was compared with the experimental condition (respectively VHS, BJ or EI condition). Results: Two out of the three different strategies did result in favourable changes with regard to the compliance-related measures. The VHS contributed to changes in perceived susceptibility of others (t = -2,78; f**2 = 0,019), perceived severity (t = -3,65; f**2 = 0,032) and individual behavioural compliance measures. People exposed to the VHS were more likely to receive less visitors (w = 16638; p = 0.003)and avoid crowds (w = 16631; p = 0.003). EI increased the perceived vulnerability of others. Video-based role model stories, based on BJ did not result in any changes. Conclusions: Behaviour change strategies may contribute to promoting behavioural compliance and could be used in public health communication. The empathy induction can be used to enhance other protection motives, while the volitional help sheet effectively can help people to overcome compliance barriers. Behavioural science can add to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
To reference this document use:
PloS One, 17 (17), e0272001