Synthesizing Instruction and Inoculation in Tailored Crisis Communication Messages of Self-Efficacy

Principal Investigator: 
Performance Period: 
October 2013 to June 2014
Commercialization Status: 
N/A
Abstract: 
One promising line of such instructional or informative communication focuses on inoculating or two-sided persuasion messages. These messages, delivered before a crisis and at the onset of a crisis recovery period, have the potential for diminishing loss of confidence in government agencies or in expediting the recovery of confidence for these agencies.   The goals of this study were to: (a) Provide an assessment of current best practices for crisis communication, (b) Test the effectiveness of two primary best practices (“accepting uncertainty,” and “self-protection”) in order to provide descriptive information to aid in targeting media delivery including demographic, lifestyle and media usage profiles, (c) produce the basis for ultimately developing a “playbook” of message strategies recommended for enhancing compliance during crisis periods and reducing fear to a reasonable level following a crisis event. This playbook will also include potential communication strategies to be employed prior to a crisis that may inoculate the public against a loss of confidence.   Rather than duplicating survey efforts, this project was designed to interface directly with CREATE’s proposed nationwide data panel to be shared across the Risk Perception and Communication theme area. This project contributed to the panel study in two ways. Initially, our previous work with instructional messages and self-efficacy or self-protection contributed to the identification of common risk perception and risk related behaviors. Second, our message testing strategy, particularly with inoculation messages, helped to refine the understanding of role these behaviors play in decision-making during high risk or crisis events. As such, the communication study we completed contributes to our understanding of risk perception, the influence of fear on comprehension, and the degree to which messages influence emotions, self-efficacy, and consumer confidence. Specifically, this study added the potential impact of inoculation messages to John and Burns’ efforts to understand both the long-term and short-term impact of crises on decision-making by U.S. residents.   Results of the completed study are less consistent than our earlier CREATE research involving perceptions of uncertainty and self-efficacy. In the completed study, we attempted to create an inoculation message that included less formal or social aspects of inoculation. We also experimented with the potential for a single, rather than repeated, exposure to inoculation messages to produce favorable effects. The relative ineffectiveness of this inoculation strategy has informed our current CREATE research project. For our current project, we are retaining the social aspects of the inoculation process, but we have returned to a repeated exposure strategy. Based on previous inoculation research, we believe a period of time (e.g. one week) is needed for audiences to comprehend the inoculation message, formulate personal arguments to resist counter-persuasion, and express/rehearse those counter arguments in interpersonal settings One promising line of such instructional or informative communication focuses on inoculating or two-sided persuasion messages. These messages, delivered before a crisis and at the onset of a crisis recovery period, have the potential for diminishing loss of confidence in government agencies or in expediting the recovery of confidence for these agencies.   The goals of this study were to: (a) Provide an assessment of current best practices for crisis communication, (b) Test the effectiveness of two primary best practices (“accepting uncertainty,” and “self-protection”) in order to provide descriptive information to aid in targeting media delivery including demographic, lifestyle and media usage profiles, (c) produce the basis for ultimately developing a “playbook” of message strategies recommended for enhancing compliance during crisis periods and reducing fear to a reasonable level following a crisis event. This playbook will also include potential communication strategies to be employed prior to a crisis that may inoculate the public against a loss of confidence.   Rather than duplicating survey efforts, this project was designed to interface directly with CREATE’s proposed nationwide data panel to be shared across the Risk Perception and Communication theme area. This project contributed to the panel study in two ways. Initially, our previous work with instructional messages and self-efficacy or self-protection contributed to the identification of common risk perception and risk related behaviors. Second, our message testing strategy, particularly with inoculation messages, helped to refine the understanding of role these behaviors play in decision-making during high risk or crisis events. As such, the communication study we completed contributes to our understanding of risk perception, the influence of fear on comprehension, and the degree to which messages influence emotions, self-efficacy, and consumer confidence. Specifically, this study added the potential impact of inoculation messages to John and Burns’ efforts to understand both the long-term and short-term impact of crises on decision-making by U.S. residents.   Results of the completed study are less consistent than our earlier CREATE research involving perceptions of uncertainty and self-efficacy. In the completed study, we attempted to create an inoculation message that included less formal or social aspects of inoculation. We also experimented with the potential for a single, rather than repeated, exposure to inoculation messages to produce favorable effects. The relative ineffectiveness of this inoculation strategy has informed our current CREATE research project. For our current project, we are retaining the social aspects of the inoculation process, but we have returned to a repeated exposure strategy. Based on previous inoculation research, we believe a period of time (e.g. one week) is needed for audiences to comprehend the inoculation message, formulate personal arguments to resist counter-persuasion, and express/rehearse those counter arguments in interpersonal settings.