Skip to main content

Public health comms

Pioneering psychologists from our top-rated Department of Psychology and Illinois Institute of Technology, USA have carried out a large-scale study to experiment with the effectiveness of messaging style that has an impact on people’s behaviour to follow public health guidelines.

The researchers tested the motivational qualities of public messages during the COVID-19 pandemic among over 25,000 participants from 89 countries.

Controlled messages propel defiance

The researchers revealed in their study findings that controlling message including those that forces people to follow certain guidelines such as staying indoors during lockdown, carried the most negative effects on people’s attitudes.

Controlling messages increase controlled motivation such as motivation relying on shame, guilt, and fear of social consequences and leads to an increased defiance of the messages.

Autonomous and supportive messages, on the other hand, lowers feeling of defiance and influences a positive motivation to constructively engage with public health messages.

Importance of motivation

The researchers stress the importance of understanding and paying attention to motivation that encourages people to engage in behaviours like hand washing, mask wearing, vaccine uptake, and social distancing during pandemics.

Positive motivation enables people to adapt helpful behavioural change and engage effectively with important health messages, which can only be achieved with constructive and supportive communication.

The researchers point out that encouraging messaging has the potential to influence a positive motivation that can lead to a stronger intention to engage with public health messages both in the short and long term.

Find out more

About our Department of Psychology

Our Department of Psychology prides itself on being a collegiate and welcoming department, committed to success for all who work here. Through dedicated teaching sessions, an optional placement module, external speakers and even an employability retreat – we actively prepare students for working life. We are proud to ranked in the Top 10 Psychology departments in the UK by The Complete University Guide 2022.

Feeling inspired? Visit our Psychology webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes.