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Public skepticism about emerging infectious diseases
Responsable du projet Adrian Bangerter
   
Collaborateur Véronique Emery
Mathieu Maridor
   
Résumé The goal of the planned research is to extend scientific understanding about social psychological processes in public perceptions of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). The project aims to document a phenomenon called skepticism about EIDs. This phenomenon is a newly emerging public attitude characterized by doubts that EIDs constitute a real risk, or a perception that the degree of risk is exaggerated. A related, more extreme attitude is cynicism about EIDs, characterized by doubts about the truth of information about EID risk that is communicated to the public, as well as negative views of the intentions of institutions involved in combating EIDs. Skeptical and cynical attitudes have developed out of the public's recent experience with the avian influenza (H5N1) and H1N1 outbreaks. These attitudes are currently the most critical phenomenon to understand from a public health and social psychological point of view on EIDs, because they are both novel, undocumented, and also of great import for practical efforts to manage disease risk.
Based on literature from public health, social psychology of disease and media psychology, a model is developed that conceptualizes the proximal cause of skeptical or cynical attitudes to EIDs as a perceived discrepancy between official information about EIDs and personal or shared experience. Two main moderator variables are postulated to affect the relation between a perceived discrepancy and skepticism or cynicism: trust in institutions and consumption of alternative media.
The model will be tested in two studies, and interview study and a survey study. Two populations will be studied: the general public and nurses. Nurses constitute an interesting contrast case to the general public because they are health care professionals and an essential element of the public health response to disease outbreaks. Nevertheless, nurses exhibited a low rate of compliance with vaccination recommendations – a unique form of skeptical professional behavior. The interview study will involve 80 participants (40 nurses and 40 members of the general public). The surveys study will involve 800 participants (300 nurses and 500 members of the general public). The studies will be performed by 2 doctoral students in collaboration, one who will focus on nurses and the other on the general public.
The planned research has important implications for understanding social psychological phenomena related to infectious diseases, as well as practical implications for communication and prevention related to infectious disease risk. The applicant and doctoral students will seek publication of results in international peer-reviewed scientific journals in the fields of social psychology and public health. Furthermore, the results of the study will be made available to interested organizations in public health, to the general public and to the media.
   
Mots-clés emerging infectious diseases, social representations, trust, skepticism, public perceptions
   
Type de projet Recherche fondamentale
Domaine de recherche Psychologie
Source de financement FNS
Etat Terminé
Début de projet 1-3-2011
Fin du projet 28-2-2014
Budget alloué 334'840
Autre information Module de recherche du ProDoc Adaptivity in Communication and Health
Contact Adrian Bangerter