Protection motivation theory and social distancing behaviour in response to a simulated infectious disease epidemic

Lynn Williams, Susan Rasmussen, Adam Kleczkowski, Savi Maharaj, Nicole Cairns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Epidemics of respiratory infectious disease remain one of the most serious health risks facing the population. Non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. hand-washing or wearing face masks) can have a significant impact on the course of an infectious disease epidemic. The current study investigated whether protection motivation theory (PMT) is a useful framework for understanding social distancing behaviour (i.e. the tendency to reduce social contacts) in response to a simulated infectious disease epidemic. There were 230 participants (109 males, 121 females, mean age 32.4years) from the general population who completed self-report measures assessing the components of PMT. In addition, participants completed a computer game which simulated an infectious disease epidemic in order to provide a measure of social distancing behaviour. The regression analyses revealed that none of the PMT variables were significant predictors of social distancing behaviour during the simulation task. However, fear (beta=.218, p<.001), response efficacy (beta=.175, p<.01) and self-efficacy (beta=.251, p<.001) were all significant predictors of intention to engage in social distancing behaviour. Overall, the PMT variables (and demographic factors) explain 21.2% of the variance in intention. The findings demonstrated that PMT was a useful framework for understanding intention to engage in social distancing behaviour, but not actual behaviour during the simulated epidemic. These findings may reflect an intention-behaviour gap in relation to social distancing behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-837
JournalPsychology, Health & Medicine
Volume20
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2015

Keywords

  • infectious disease
  • social distancing
  • protection motivation

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