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The research consisted of an internet-based panel survey of approximately 9, people aged 18 years and older. However, only about half of the participants surveyed wore a mask always or most of the time when coming in close contact — 6 feet or nearer — with people outside their immediate households. In a study that appears in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychologythe Princeton researchers set out to see whether they could use a specific approach to increase compliance with safety measures deed to decrease the likelihood of contracting SARS-CoV Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

Coined by Leon Festinger incognitive dissonance theory refers to the discomfort felt by individuals who hold two beliefs that contradict one another or who harbor beliefs and behaviors that contradict. For example, a smoker who is well aware that smoking causes lung cancer yet continues to smoke. For instance, in a studyresearchers asked participants to publicly advocate for the importance of engaging in safe sex and then made them mindful of times they failed to use condoms in the past.

After that part of the experiment was completed, those participants bought more condoms than participants in the control group. Similarly, in a study by Cooper and Lauren Feldman, a psychology graduate student at Princeton, older participants were asked to advocate for the health benefits of exercising and then urged to remember times they personally avoided exercising. Using an online participant recruitment tool called Prolific, Pearce selected participants. They came from 18 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Portugal, and ranged in age from 18 to 67 years.

All participants answered a prescreening questionnaire, which asked about their attitudes toward safety measures deed to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infections before being selected. The researchers removed several prospectives from consideration for responding that they did not believe it was important to follow the safety measures. The participants were then divided into four. One cohort, which the researchers labeled the advocacy group, was asked to watch a video that the World Health Organization WHO created about safely wearing a fabric mask.

The study authors then asked them to write sentences advocating for following precautions deed to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections. Another, labeled the mindfulness group, watched the video and then were asked to write sentences about a time they did not follow safety measures deed to ward off COVID A third, labeled the dissonance group, watched the video, wrote statements advocating for others to follow safety precautions, then wrote about a time they did not follow safety measures. The researchers then evaluated participants from all four groups on their attitudes and intentions regarding COVID safety measures and willingness to share COVID resources with others.

About a week after completing those tasks, participants self-reported their recent behavior regarding safety measures they undertook to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections. Members of the dissonance cohort were much more likely to have complied with safety measures and sought out vaccination appointments than participants in one of the control groups. Professor Stephanie Prestona behavioral neuroscientist in the psychology department at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, who was not involved with this study, told MNT she agrees that cognitive dissonance theory can be a useful tool for shaping health-related behaviors.

In their paper, Pearce and Cooper include a dissonance-based plan, which state or federal governments could undertake to encourage individuals to practice consistent behavior deed to ward off SARS-CoV-2 infections. They suggest leaders could do things, such as stage contests, where contestants compete by coming up with arguments about why everyone should get SARS-CoV-2 vaccines or follow safety precautions.

There would also be a second, crucial step to the contests: those who enter would also be asked to talk about a time they did not follow precautions deed to ward off SARS-CoV-2 infections. If their approach becomes deployed on a larger scale, the Princeton researchers would critically evaluate its impact.

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Even if this method is not as successful at encouraging individuals to follow safety measures as it was in their study, the researchers point out that even if it prompts a small percentage of people to change their behavior, it could save lives.

Pearce explained to MNT that she understands that battling the pandemic has been really trying for everyone. She believes many people just need a gentle reminder to be safe. The limitations of this study include that it had a relatively small sample size and did not reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the general population.

The study relied solely on volunteers who the researchers recruited from a specific website. Preston told MNT that she believes recruiting participants off the internet represents the general population better than other methods. And there are still people who have lower education or income who use the internet. For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID. New research may indicate which common fabrics are best at filtering out tiny particles similar to those through which SARS-CoV-2 may spread.

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New approach may motivate people to follow COVID safety measures