Prosocial Messages Found More Persuasive in Encouraging Social Distancing

04 May 2021 Comments Off on Prosocial Messages Found More Persuasive in Encouraging Social Distancing

An article coauthored by Dr. Melis Ceylan, visiting assistant professor in the Faculty of Business Administration, describes the results of research exploring the question of how to communicate messaging about social distancing to the public in the most convincing way.Dr. Ceylan and her coauthor, Dr. Ceren Hayran (Özyeğin University) find that when a message is prosocial (i.e., emphasizes benefits for everyone in society) rather than self-interested (i.e., targeted solely to the individual), it is more persuasive in convincing people to engage in social distancing, and also more motivating in impelling them to help others in need during the pandemic.

The authors further demonstrate that the proposed effects are greater for individuals who have a lower perceived sense of control (locus of control) and lower fear of COVID-19. This is because people who have a higher locus of control believe that they can control the outcomes of events that take place in their surroundings. Consequently, they are more likely to believe that they can protect themselves from COVID-19 by taking the necessary precautions and are also more likely to help others in need by taking actions such as sharing resources or making donations, all without being influenced by an external message. People with a lower locus of control, on the other hand, are more influenced by external warnings, especially if they are prosocial in tone.

The results thus indicate that a prosocial message, such as “For everyone’s health, keep a safe distance from others,” is more effective than a self-interested one in driving message compliance and encouraging people to help others. The authors also recommend that messages may be tailored differently in geographic locations where the number of cases is relatively low, and, presumably, so is the level of fear in society.

The article, titled “Message Framing Effects on Individuals’ Social Distancing and Helping Behavior During the COVID-19 Pandemic” was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. It can be found at