The influence of gain-loss framing and its interaction with political ideology on social distancing and mask wearing compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19, Framing effect, Mask wearing, Political ideology, Risk attitude, Social distancing, Subjective numeracy
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of cases and over half a million deaths in the United States. While health experts urge citizens to adopt preventative measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask, these recommended behaviors are not always followed by the public. To find a way to promote preventative measures, the present study examined the role of gain-loss framing of COVID-19 related messages on social distancing and mask wearing compliance. Moreover, the study also tested potential moderating effects on framing with three individual characteristics: political ideology, subjective numeracy, and risk attitude. A sample of 375 U.S. adult residents were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk. Each participant read either a gain or loss-framed message related to practicing protective behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants also completed scales of preventative behaviors, risk attitude, subjective numeracy, political ideology, and other demographic variables. It was found that those who were more liberal, risk-averse and had greater subjective numeracy were more likely to wear a mask and/or follow social distancing. Furthermore, in the presence of demographic and psychological factors, the study found participants in the loss-framed condition than in the gain-framed condition were more likely to adopt both preventative measures, supporting the notion of loss aversion. Additionally, the framing effect was also moderated by political ideology on mask-wearing, with the effect being stronger in liberals than in conservatives. Collectively, the study implies message framing may be a useful means to promote preventative measures in the current pandemic.
Department of Psychology
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Steffen, Jordan and Cheng, Jiuqing, "The influence of gain-loss framing and its interaction with political ideology on social distancing and mask wearing compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic" (2021). Faculty Publications. 156.