Reminders of Continued Advances in Science Inspire Confidence in Evolving COVID-19 Guidelines


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Authorities could boost public confidence in COVID-19 health recommendations by recalling that changes in recommendations are expected as science evolves, according to a new study.

The research team first predicted and found that reminders of frequent changes in safety guidelines made people judge experts negatively.

“People have often suggested that reviews of security practices could lead to mistrust of experts who provide advice,” said study co-author Derek Koehler, professor of psychology at Waterloo. “Our goal was to examine the effects of salient changes in COVID-19 guidelines – such as mask wear changes – on confidence in health experts, and to test interventions to improve confidence.”

For a group of study participants in Canada, pointing out the frequent changes in guidelines also reduced their intention to download the COVID Alert contact tracing app.

To conduct the study, participants in Canada and the United States completed an online survey asking them to rate the perceived expertise and reliability of public health officials and scientists during the COVID pandemic. Before completing their assessments, they were reminded of how the public health guidelines on COVID had stayed the same or how they had changed in the previous months.

Compared to consistency reminders, public health recommendations evolution reminders have led people to assess public health authorities as having less expertise.

To test an intervention, participants were given a “warning” message to accompany public health updates that emphasized how much change in science is expected and a good thing. He encouraged study participants to take the perspective of a public health official who communicates these changing directions.

“We have found that this intervention helps make people more receptive to changes in direction. For example, without prior warning, reminders of changing (as opposed to consistent) directions led public health authorities to be viewed as less trustworthy, but the warning message eliminated this negative effect, ”said lead author Jeremy Gretton, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Waterloo when the work was conducted.

The study suggests communication strategies for public health updates that focus on recommendations are based on the latest advances in scientific evidence and understanding and will continue to evolve.

The study, Brief warning intervention overcomes negative effects of salient changes in COVID-19 guidelines, author by Gretton, Koehler, Ethan Meyers, Alexander Walker and Jonathan Fugelsang, was recently published in the journal Judgment and decision making.

How conspiracy theorists exploited COVID-19 science

Provided by the University of Waterloo

Quote: Reminders of Continued Advances in Science Inspire Confidence in Evolving COVID-19 Guidelines (2021, December 13) Retrieved December 13, 2021 from science-instil-covid- .html

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