Home Men Health Visual narratives emphasizing communal advantages boost COVID-19 vaccination rates

Visual narratives emphasizing communal advantages boost COVID-19 vaccination rates

Visual narratives emphasizing communal advantages boost COVID-19 vaccination rates

In a recent study published within the journal PNAS Nexus, researchers performed a three-wave online panel survey across 50 states in the US of America (USA) and Washington D.C. in 2021 to check the influence of visual narrative-based policy communication messages on people’s attitudes and behavior towards coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and advantages of COVID-19 vaccination.

They aimed to advance the science of narrative risk communication about COVID-19 vaccination by developing an understanding of the influence of the message structure via a visible platform of risk messaging.

As well as, they assessed the results of specific narrative mechanisms (character selection), moderation effects of political ideology, and mediation effects of affective response & motivation to vaccinate on COVID-19 vaccine uptake behavior. More importantly, they evaluated how covariates, resembling risk perception, COVID-19 & vaccination history, and demographics, affected mediator, moderator, and consequence variables.

Study: Visual policy narrative messaging improves COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Image Credit: CDC


In times of crisis, resembling the COVID-19 pandemic, how messages influencing risk reduction behavior (e.g., getting vaccinated) were conveyed was crucial. In reality, there’s at all times this must discover the particular narrative mechanisms that result in greater persuasion.

In regards to the study

In the current study, researchers distributed a panel survey experiment to three,900 US residents in 2021, recruited from several sources, e.g., gaming sites, social media, and targeted email lists, to call a number of.

The team randomly assigned survey respondents to one in every of the 4 experimental conditions in T1 launched between January 11 and February 3, 2021. Two months later, at T2, they measured vaccine behavior (Y1) because the consequence variable.

4 experimental conditions comprised three visual policy narrative messages (or treatment conditions) – protect yourself, your circle, and your community, and a non-narrative message (control condition), viz., get the vaccine. They tested the narrative mechanism of character selection within the treatment conditions. Likewise, they measured all covariates in T1 before exposure to experimental conditions.

The team conducted two analyses.

In evaluation 1, they assessed the general effect of narrative risk messages (Xi) on vaccination (Y1), moderated by political ideology (W), controlling for all covariates. Importantly, risk perception was not used as a mediating variable within the model, as the danger perception surrounded the impacts of getting the coronavirus, not the COVID-19 vaccine.

The second evaluation was a moderated serial mediation evaluation with conditional effects. It tested the mediation effects of message conditions (Xi) through affective response (M1) and motivation to vaccinate (M2) on vaccine behavior at T2 (Y1), each as individual mediators and as serial mediators controlling for all covariates.

The team measured M1 and M2 immediately after respondents were exposed to the message conditions during T1 using a seven-point scale from “extremely negative” to “extremely positive” and one other seven-point scale from “by no means” to “an awesome deal,” respectively.

In addition they measured political ideology, a possible moderator (W), on a seven-point scale, where lower numbers indicated stronger conservative beliefs and better numbers hinted at firmer liberal beliefs. The researchers used a regression-based moderated mediation model called Hayes PROCESS macro to research visual policy narratives’ total, mediation, and moderation effects on COVID-19 vaccination behavior.


At the beginning, the present study confirmed that narrative-based risk messages are more powerful than non-narrative ones regarding influencing the COVID-19 vaccine uptake. As well as, all three narrative conditions tested on this study had substantial conditional effects on vaccine uptake behavior than the control condition.

Importantly, the narrative structure also strongly influenced people’s decision-making. Thus, risk communication practitioners and researchers should craft narrative-based risk messages with characters moderately than an ethical or directive. Moreover, risk messaging motivating behavior with communal advantages, i.e., protect your circle, was far more practical in increasing vaccine uptake.

One other significant discovery of this study was that the pathway of influence of risk message to risk mitigation behavior was non-linear, highlighting the necessity for more accurate models explaining the direct effects of risk communication on behavior.

A risk message that generated a positive affective response resulted in higher motivation to vaccinate, which subsequently led to higher COVID-19 vaccination behavior eight weeks later. Thus, an efficient risk communication message needed to first trigger the audience’s attention via augmenting affective response, which later activated an intention to act. Given the progressive politicization of COVID-19 vaccines within the U.S., the researchers tested whether the moderation of political views influenced COVID-19 vaccine behavior.

The researchers noted that political views didn’t have a widespread moderating effect potentially because on the time of the study, i.e., between February and April 2021, individual perceptions and intentions in regards to the COVID-19 vaccine uptake were of their formative stage.

It is usually noteworthy that conservative participants considered themselves less at risk of the danger of COVID-19 than liberals, thus, entirely neglected the message to get the vaccine. More importantly, conservatives accepted COVID-19 vaccination with messages fixated on “protecting the circle” than “protecting yourself” messaging.

Since conservatives are considered more individualistic, it was a surprising revelation. Nevertheless, it highlighted the necessity for messages focused on the communal advantages of COVID-19 vaccinations than messages strictly raising individual concerns.

On this study, the researchers positioned risk perception as a covariate and partitioned it into two distinct dimensions, likelihood and severity. They operated independently along different conditional pathways but not in a harmonious fashion. The perception of severity triggered higher affective responses, whereas the perception of the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 motivated people to get the vaccine; nevertheless, none directly affected risk reduction behavior.

Finally, within the context of graphic communication, risk messaging must use efficient visual avenues for spreading and sharing information and adequately influence risk reduction behavior, as desired.


To conclude, stories elevate the human experience and shape how we perceive the world and our history, and, eventually, make decisions that affect us and the community. Furthermore, the emergence of social media and graphic communication has highly augmented the importance of storytelling through novel and complicated pathways for spreading information.

The present study showed that visual narrative risk communication was highly effective at encouraging COVID-19 risk mitigation behavior. As different narratives differentially impacted their audiences, thus, using narrative mechanisms that enhanced narrative power could elevate public health communication and, subsequently, people’s behavior regarding COVID-19 vaccine uptake.

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