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

Citation
Williams L, Rasmussen S, Kleczkowski A, Maharaj S & Cairns N (2015) Protection motivation theory and social distancing behaviour in response to a simulated infectious disease epidemic, Psychology, Health and Medicine, 20 (7), pp. 832-837.

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 (β=.218,p<.001), response efficacy (β=.175,p<.01) and self-efficacy (β=.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.

Keywords
infectious disease; protection motivation; social distancing

StatusPublished
AuthorsWilliams Lynn, Rasmussen Susan, Kleczkowski Adam, Maharaj Savi, Cairns Nicole
Publication date2015
Publication date online02/04/2015
Date accepted by journal09/03/2015
PublisherTaylor and Francis
ISSN 1354-8506
LanguageEnglish

Journal
Psychology, Health and Medicine: Volume 20, Issue 7 (2015)

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