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Changing someone’s mind about COVID-19 might require people to do this

Want to stop people to stop have misconceptions about COVID-19? This trick might help

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A man gets a COVID-19 test in Utah.

A man gets a COVID-19 test at Pleasant Grove Recreation Center on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. On Thursday, Pleasant Grove High School will pivot from full-time in-person learning to a modified schedule due to an uptick of COVID-19 cases.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

A person’s moral values matter a lot when it comes to accepting educational content about coronavirus risks, transmission and prevention, according to a new study published in Educational Researcher.

The research said people with strong moral concerns of the well-being of others were more likely to update or change their beliefs about COVID-19 when they were given new information.

Those who had a “strong moral value on protecting group cohesion and people who value protecting individual freedoms were more likely to reject new information and maintain COVID-19 misbeliefs,” the study said, according to a press release.

Our results indicate that messages relaying basic facts about COVID-19 risks and prevention may be rejected by individuals when they are perceived to conflict with strongly held moral values. Perceived conflicts between public health messages and moral values evoke negative emotions, such as doubt, anger, or confusion, which spark cognitive disbelief and rejection of new information. — study author Gregory Trevors

The study said COVID-19 messages that paint mask wearing as a patriotic duty would be good for those who value social cohesion. Similarly, messages about masks being self-protection would be good for those who value personal freedom, the study said.

Having a one-size-fits-all educational content would be unlikely to convince people to accept best evidence about COVID-19, the researchers said.

The research said there has been mixed messaging about the importance of how to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has made it hard for some to embrace the messaging.

We will need to promote the acceptance of the best available COVID-19 evidence in ways that allow Americans to act in accordance with differing moral values. This will take creativity, patience, trust, mutual respect, and communication between elected policymakers and public health officials at the national, state, and local levels. — Trevors said.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there is a “moral bankruptcy” throughout the world since there are some who don’t care about elderly people dying from COVID-19, as I wrote about for the Deseret News.

  • “No, when the elderly are dying it’s not fine. It’s a moral bankruptcy. Every life, whether it’s young or old, is precious and we have to do everything to save it.”