How do persuasive communication styles and socio-demographic factors (age) influence the willingness for C-19 booster uptake?

Feb 15, 2024

How do persuasive communication styles and socio-demographic factors (age) influence the willingness for C-19 booster uptake?

Qualtrics Experiment available at:

Proposed title:
‘Communication Style Influence on Response’ – an online experiment to establish if willingness to comply with C-19 booster uptake recommendations can be enhanced by emotion triggering communication styles.

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Research question & hypothesis:
Q: How do persuasive communication styles and socio-demographic factors (age) influence the willingness for C-19 booster uptake?
The research question has two independent variables: communication style, and age as socio-demographic factor. The two IV are first examined separately and then combined to determine their interactions based on the dependent variable. This results in the following hypotheses.

  • H1: Participants exposed to persuasive communication viewing Emotive images will record higher willingness to comply scores than those viewing Basic informative images.
  • H2: Participants in the age range 18-39 years old will record lower willingness to comply scores than those in the age range 40-71 years.
  • H3: Persuasive communication will have a more influence on the willingness to comply with booster uptake recommendations on participants in the age range 40-71 years old.

Psychological theories:
This experiment utilised the Cognitive Dissonance Theory (Festinger, 1957). The CDT explicates that an underlying psychological tension is established when a person’s behaviour is inconsistent with their beliefs and thoughts. The underpinning tension then motivates a person to change their attitude which then results in consistency between their behaviour and their thoughts.
– Re: communication style – In this experiment, it is assumed that the participants are not extremely fearful about contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to their loved ones. Therefore, a condition that evokes the psychological tension, will be created by issuing participants with Emotive images representing ‘loved ones’ triggering emotional state, increasing motivation to willingness to vaccine booster uptake, unlike the control group that vied basic informative poster.
 – Re: Age – Previous research shows that: Adults under the age of 40 are less compliant than older people (Nivette et al, 2020; Lin et al, 2021; Sobol et al, 2020); Young adults associated with risky behaviours (Brankston et al., 2021; Alsan et al., 2020; Seale et al., 2020); Young adults associated with lower adherence to rules (Cwetkovic et al., 2020; Bridgman et al, 2020; Jehn & Zajacova, 2020).

Design
Between participants design measured if strategically applied communication style can increase compliance of individuals based on their age range. Using the between participants design, each participant was only exposed to one condition, removing or preventing the carryover effects that can cause bias and fatigue and reduce the internal validity of the study.
The experiment tested differences between experimental and control conditions based on age ranges. The experiment aimed to examine the role of psychology in determining the effectiveness of communication style about the willingness for C-19 booster uptake.
Two by Two independent factorial ANOVA was used to analyse the collected data. The experiment assumed a 2×2 factorial design, which involved investigating the effects of two independent variables (each having two levels) on a single dependent variable

Independent Variable 1 – Emotion activating Communication Style with two levels comprising of: Persuasive style emotion triggering – Emotive images (below), and Non-persuasive – Basic Informative images (below);
Independent Variable 2 – Age
Adults below the age of 40 (age range: 18-39) and Adults above the age of 40 (age range: 40-71)

Dependent Variable – The dependent variable is the ‘Willingnes to comply’ score in regards to the C-19 booster uptake recommendations.

The willingness to comply scores were determined by responses based on whether the booster shots are mandatory, the booster repetition necessity, the availability of the booster shots at the place of work, monetary reward or a reward in a form of extra days off work offered. The higher the average score on the scale indicates higher likelihood of willingness to comply with C-19 booster recommendations. The willingness to C-19 booster uptake tested in the two age ranges when both Emotion triggering communication style or Basic informative communication style are used to inform them on the importance of remaining alert about the rapid virus spread and how to protect their loved ones from it.
Participants were randomly allocated to either the control group or the experimental group (all participants were exposed to only a single condition – between participants design). Experimental Group saw Emotive Images (pictures of actual people containing guidance how to protect loved ones from the rapid spread of the virus) and Control Group saw Basic Informative Images (animated informative containing guidance how to protect loved ones from the rapid spread of the virus). All participants in both groups were asked to look at images displayed on their screen for 20 seconds before advancing and without the option to skip.

Design issues
One issue with the between participants design is that individual differences could result in biased results. Randomisation of participants to either control or experimental condition solves this issue. Also, to sufficiently address the hypothesis, a large sample size is required – target between 100-200 subjects was achieved as 164 fully completed responses were received.

Procedure
Participants were randomly allocated to two different groups and both groups conducted the experiment after reading and signing the informed consent form. The informed consent reminded them about the right to withdraw at any time without consequences or explanations. They were also assured that the data will be stored on a secure computer that is protected with a password.
Next, all participants were asked to examine a series of images containing information in form of short statements. Basic informative images for control group and Emotive images for experimental group. All participants in both groups were asked to take a moment to examine the images while there were displayed on a screen for 20 seconds before advancing without the option to skip. Next, all participants were asked to answer a questionnaire of five questions focused on the willingness of taking C-19 booster shots. Questionnaire containing five questions that were identical for both groups, with a choice of answers measured on a scale from: 1 Very Unwilling, 2 Unwilling, 3 Not Sure, 4 Willing, 5 Very Willing; The higher compliance scores the higher the willingness to comply with C-19 booster uptake recommendations.
Finally, all participants were debriefed and thanked for their participation.

Materials
Materials included an experimental set of four Emotive images, control set of four Basic images, and a questionnaire combining five questions. Other materials included a computer or any electronic devise with an internet browser.

Participants
Participants were recruited through the EWP and social medial site ‘LinkedIn’, based on their availability and willingness to participate. Participants were a mix of few OU students and professionals who are an active LinkedIn profile users. There were from various countries and cities to ensure that a sizeable sample size between 100 and 200 is achieved (164 completed).

Data collection and analysis
Data was collection was possible through the Qualtrics questionnaire scores. Two-way ANOVA was used to enable the testing of the effect of both communication tactics and demographic factors on C-19 vaccine booster willingness to comply at the same time.

Results:
All necessary assumptions have been met.
There was a statistically significant effect of participant exposure to Basic versus Emotive Images Type on the willingness to comply F (1,160) = 338.84, p < .001, ŋp2 = .68; However, there was no statistically significant effect of participants’ age on the willingness to comply F (1,160) = 4.06, p = .045, ŋp2 = .03; Furthermore, there was no statistically significant interaction between participants age and the participant exposure to the Basic versus Emotive Images Type F (1,160) = .00, p = .999; This experiment findings support existing research suggesting correlation between communication style and response. The experiment however doesn’t support the notion that willingness to comply is lower among adults below the age of 40 years old and higher for adults within age bracket of 40 and above. Further, regardless of what communication style used to influence the response, this findings doesn’t support the hypothesis that young adults are less compliant and older adults are more likely to comply.

Experiment Questionnaire:
Each with choice of answers from:
1 = Very Unwilling, 2 = Unwilling, 3 = Not Sure, 4 = Willing, 5 = Very Willing;
Q1. In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, are you willing to boost your immune system as frequently as every 3 months with any of the approved C-19 booster injections?
Q2. In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, would you take the C-19 booster injections more frequently if the shots were made mandatory by the law to prevent any further spread of the disease?
Q3. I In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, would you take the C-19 booster injections more frequently if the booster appointment day and the following day was given to you as an extra day off work?
Q4. In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, would you take the C-19 booster injections more frequently if the booster shots were conveniently available at your work place?
Q5. In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, would you take the C-19 booster injections more frequently if a gift card or monetary reward was offered for each booster shot?

  • Very Unwilling
  • Unwilling
  • Not Sure
  • Willing
  • Very Willing;

Experiment Conditions:  Emotive Images & Basic Informative Images

Emotive1   Emotive2

Emotive3    Emotive4


Basic1  Basic2

Basic3   Basic4

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