Covid Norms

Covid Norms: Monitoring and Analyzing Preventive Behavior

As part of the National Research Program «Covid-19» (NRP 78), Thomas Friemel, Sarah Geber, Mark Eisenegger, and Daniel Vogler have received a grant for their project «Covid-Norms». The project will be realized in cooperation between the IKMZ and the fög. Over a period of two years (September 2020 - August 2022), social norms on various Covid-19 protection behaviors, especially the use of the SwissCovid app and the wearing of a face mask, will be investigated. The aim of the project is to understand the role of different forms of communication in the development of social norms on protective behavior. For this purpose, survey data of the Swiss population will be combined with content analysis data of the public discourse in the mass media and social media. The close cooperation with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health will ensure that the scientific findings are incorporated into communication strategies and prevention measures.

Background: Reducing the reproduction factor by infection prevention is the only way to combat Covid-19 until a vaccination becomes available. This may be reached by high levels of (personal) hygiene and social distancing as well as the fast interruption of infection chains by testing and contact tracing (Salathé et al., 2020). However, epidemiological simulations demonstrate that these measures only become effective if a crucial share of the population complies with them (Ferretti et al., 2020; Fraser et al., 2004). Among other factors, this resulted in an enforced lockdown of public life all over the world. Given the economic and social downsides of this enforcement as well as the increasing opposition and protests, alternative approaches need to be developed. Particularly in democracies that build on individual freedom and self-reliant decisions of their citizens, the only legitimate (and thus feasible) strategy is to convince the population to comply voluntarily with infection prevention. Hence, the challenge for combating Covid-19 in the long run will be to establish social norms that socially regulate compliance with protective measures in Switzerland by indicating what is and what ought to be done.
Aims: Against this background, the present project aims to develop and support a normative approach to disease prevention. This requires 1) a profound theoretical and empirical understanding of the factors and dynamics of social norms of preventive behavior regarding Covid-19 and 2) the translation of these scientific insights into evidence-based, concrete guidance for monitoring and influencing norms of preventive behavior in the Swiss population.
Transfer and expected impact: The project builds on a close collaboration with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). This collaboration is crucial regarding the project’s aim to rapidly translate the scientific insights into evidence-based, concrete guidance for disease prevention during the Covid-19 crises. Our results will inform ongoing communication strategies of the FOPH, such as the tracing app campaign, and will help to prepare a potential vaccination campaign.

Social dynamics of media use

Digitalisation has not only lead to an increase in media content provided but also creates new opportunities for interacting with and about media content. Sharing links to YouTube videos, posting tweets on TV shows, or commenting online news articles are just a few examples how social interactions have become an inherent part of today’s media and our everyday life. We investigate the social dynamics (on- and offline) related to media use in order to understand how digitalisation affects media use, social structures, and the media themselves.

We are especially interested in adolescent’s media use since they are oftentimes more open for technological innovations and our research shows that their media use is closely linked to their social context. We collaborate with various schools in Switzerland and Germany and are specialised in collecting and analysing longitudinal network data.

In order to identify potential negative consequences of online media and to develop appropriate coping strategies we support the OECD developing respective recommendations. OECD-Workshop

Social dynamics of health behavior among adolescents

Growing up in today’s society is influenced by mediated communication more than ever. This effects also health behavior such as tobacco and alcohol use. We therefore investigate the social dynamics among adolescents (on- and offline) to assess the impact of social media on adolescent’s health behavior. The project is partially financed by the Swiss Tobacco Control Fund (c/o Federal Office of Public Health) and will support the development of future prevention strategies in order to increase public health.

Cooperation partners: Tobacco Control Fund (c/o Federal Office of Public Health) Involved persons: Thomas Friemel, Tobias Frey

The impact of information and communication on public transport safety

In Germany, about 10 billion public transport rides are made every year. Passengers expect a high level of security in vehicles and at stops. However, the perceived security of passengers not only depends on objective safety, which is still high in comparison with other means of transport and life situations.

Due to this discrepancy between actual and perceived security, we are investigating the effects of information and communication on passengers’ feeling of security. Hereby we include different types of communication such as information and communication messages by public transport operators, media coverage, and the use of mobile devices during the journey.

Based on an extensive content analysis, a representative survey, a panel study with mobile experience sampling, experiments on the effects of campaign messages, and expert interviews we develop recommendations for communication activities of public transport operators.

Our research is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany.

Cooperation partners: University of Bremen, Free University Berlin, Technische Hochschule Wildau, Fraunhofer Institut für Offene Kommunikationssysteme FOKUS, Deutsche Bahn AG
Involved Persons: Thomas Friemel, Dennis Reichow