Research finds way to make people follow Covid protocols without inducing fear

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 31, 2021

New research showed a way to make people adhere to Covid-19 protocols without inducing fear.

The study, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, stated that fear takes a deep toll on mental health and is fertile ground for discrimination and prejudice.

It noted that the extent to which people personally felt informed and capable of acting clearly affected the extent of their behavior to prevent infection, like by keeping our distance and refraining from handshakes.

"These are important findings because they show a pathway to public compliance with pandemic health advice which is not driven by personal fear,” said Michael Bang Petersen, one of three authors behind the study, and a professor of political science at Aarhus University, Denmark.

He added: “Today, in the spring of 2021, many countries are hit by a third wave of infections and authorities may be tempted to induce fear to make people follow guidelines. Our findings provide policymakers with an alternative.”

The study showed that when people feel capable of handling the crisis, the impact of fear is no longer important.

Those who feel efficacious comply with the authorities' guidelines regardless of whether they are worried about the health of themselves and their families. And they also comply regardless of whether they trust their government and their fellow citizens, the authors wrote.

"Our study shows that in the first stage of the pandemic, a sense of urgency emerged and made people put aside individual considerations and political differences. This sense caused people across the world to say: 'Tell us what to do, and we will do it,'" said Professor Michael Bang Petersen.

The study is based on representative surveys conducted in Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. A total of 26,508 people participated from March to May 2020 as the early events were unfolding.

Published on March 31, 2021

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