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Psychologists called on to guide pandemic information strategies

Insights into behavioural changes are crucial to controlling the spread of infection, Queensland academics say

Social psychology is emerging as a critical discipline to help meet the behavioural change challenges of Covid-19 communication strategies, a University of Queensland academic has said.

Jolanda Jetten, a researcher with the faculty of health and behavioural sciences, has co-authored a free e-book on psychological aspects of the pandemic. These include threat and risk perception, social isolation and the popularity of conspiracy theories.

The e-book, Together Apart: The psychology of Covid-19, was written with Alex Haslam, UQ professor of social and organisational psychology. It draws on contributions from international experts to provide insight into behavioural change caused by the global pandemic.

“Our means of controlling the infection spread depends on behavioural changes and hence upon psychology,” Jetten said in a university statement.

“An effective response to the pandemic hinges on people coming together and supporting each other as members of a common community, which is why the social psychological dimensions of the pandemic are so important.”

Haslam said that several contributors to the e-book had been advising governments on the psychology of trust to build an effective response to the pandemic.

“They have provided input to governments and taskforces around the world on topics including communications and messaging, adherence to lockdown and physical distancing, trust-building, leadership, public order and the mental health impact of physical distancing measures.”