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Physical risk messaging enhances favorable attitudes toward mask wearing
Journal of Consumer Affairs  (IF2.131),  Pub Date : 2021-08-05, DOI: 10.1111/joca.12402
Marie A. Yeh, Ann M. Mirabito, Stacey R. Finkelstein

While masks slow the transmission of COVID-19, many resist wearing them. Extant public service messaging focuses on creating social norms around mask wearing. Drawing on protection motivation theory, we conduct a copy test to determine whether focusing on the physical risks or focusing on the social risks of contracting COVID-19 is more persuasive in motivating mask wearing. We find that physical risk messaging is more persuasive than social risk messaging and find that the effect is partially mediated by fear of COVID-19. The mediation is moderated by germ aversion. Specifically, we find people who are high in germ aversion respond to both physical and social risk messaging. However, people low in germ aversion respond only to physical risk messaging—and these are the people who are less likely to wear masks. Our findings offer public health agencies a fresh approach for encouraging those who are resistant to mask wearing to wear a mask.