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The Impact of Emotion and Government Trust on Individuals’ Risk Information Seeking and Avoidance during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-country Comparison

Jisoo Ahn, , , Lucy Atkinson,
Published: 3 October 2021

Abstract: This study examines the emotional mechanisms of how public trust in the governments’ actions to address the COVID-19 pandemic shapes individuals’ risk information-seeking and avoidance. To make cross-cultural comparisons, we conducted a multi-country survey early in the pandemic in South Korea, the United States (US) and Singapore. The results suggest that trust was negatively related to fear, anger, sadness and anxiety, and positively related to hope. These emotions were significant mediators of the effect of trust on information seeking and avoidance, except for anger on avoidance. Importantly, the indirect effects of trust in government varied by country. Fear was a stronger mediator between trust and information seeking in South Korea than in the US. In contrast, sadness and anger played more prominent mediating roles in Singapore than in South Korea. This study offers theoretical insights into better understanding the roles of discrete emotions in forming information behaviors. The findings of this study also inform communication strategies that seek to navigate trust in managing pandemics that impact multiple nations.
Keywords: trust / emotions / pandemic / COVID / information seeking / behaviors / survey / Fear / Singapore

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