Releasing the Results of the PSA’s COVID-Rapid Project

The PSACR Administrative Leadership Team
Heather Urry, Hannah Moshontz, Charles Ebersole, Jeremy K. Miller, 
Nicholas Coles, Maximilian Primbs, Erin Buchanan, Patrick S. Forscher

On March 13, 2020, the PSA put out a call for rapid and impactful studies on the psychological aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the call was to initiate the PSA’s COVID-Rapid Project, or PSACR, which would test whether our “big team science” model of massively collaborative psychology could contribute to a psychological understanding of the pandemic.

Now, a year and a quarter later, PSACR is bearing its first fruit. The scope of the project is staggering. According to our project methods, our project produced three core studies, a general health behavior survey, a dataset spanning over 47,000 participants and 44 languages and dialects in 110 countries, with a team of 467 collaborators. Moreover, we produced all these products on a budget of a bit less than $17,000 USD – of which $7,000 was donated by PSA members.

Just as impressive were the hurdles we had to overcome to produce these results. We obtained ethics approval across all our data collection sites, a process that involved huge administrative back-and-forth. We coordinated a translation team of at least 268, who completed forward translation, backward translation, and cultural adjustment processes. We coordinated 18 lab grants and the purchase of 15 semi-representative panels. We maintained two servers for data collection, programmed the project in 44 languages in formr, and completed a massive process of debugging. To maintain quality control, we coordinated a process of internal review before executing the project and revision processes when writing the papers that communicated the results.

We believe that our scientific results justify this massive effort. Our project has produced three highly precise and global tests of questions that are both theoretically and practically important. Moreover, we have produced a huge array of project materials in 44 languages, as well as a massive, meticulously documented dataset ripe for secondary analysis. We hope our three core studies are the first of many scientific contributions that PSACR will produce and inspire.

None of these achievements would have been possible without the PSA’s most valuable resource, its members. PSA members gave freely and generously of their skills and resources to make this project happen. Moreover, given that the author lists for these projects exceed 400, they did so knowing that they might not receive adequate compensation for their effects in the currency that most matters in academia, credit.

We list the main materials of the PSACR project below. Below that, we profile five contributors to this project. We chose these contributors to highlight people from different countries and project roles – and especially some of our many stellar contributors who are early in their careers. Although we do not have space to profile all 467 of our contributors, we hope this does something to make visible some of the many invisible contributions to the PSACR project.

PSACR Project Links

PSACR Study 001 Loss/Gain (preprint currently pre-data; OSF)

A global test of message framing on behavioural intentions, policy support, information seeking, and experienced anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic presents a critical need to identify best practices for communicating health information to the global public. It also provides an opportunity to test theories about risk communication. As part of a larger Psychological Science Accelerator COVID-19 Rapid Project, a global consortium of researchers will experimentally test competing hypotheses regarding the effects of framing messages in terms of losses versus gains. We will examine effects on three primary outcomes: intentions to adhere to policies designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, opinions about such policies, and the likelihood that participants seek additional policy information. Whereas research on negativity bias and loss aversion predicts that loss-framing will have greater impact, research on encouraging the adoption of protective health behaviour suggests the opposite (i.e., gain-framing will be more persuasive). We will also assess effects on experienced anxiety. Given the potentially low cost and the scalable nature of framing interventions, results could be valuable to health organizations, policymakers, and news sources globally.

PSACR Study 002 Reappraisal (preprint; OSF)

A global test of brief reappraisal interventions on emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased negative emotions and decreased positive emotions globally. Left unchecked, these emotional changes might have a wide array of adverse impacts. To reduce negative emotions and increase positive emotions, we tested the effectiveness of reappraisal, an emotion regulation strategy which modifies how one thinks about a situation. Participants from 87 countries/regions (N = 21,644) were randomly assigned to one of two brief reappraisal interventions (reconstrual or repurposing) or one of two control conditions (active or passive). Results revealed that both reappraisal interventions (vs. both control conditions) had consistent effects in reducing negative emotions and increasing positive emotions across different measures. Reconstrual and repurposing had similar effects. Importantly, planned exploratory analyses indicated that reappraisal interventions did not reduce intentions to practice preventive health behaviours. The findings demonstrate the viability of creating scalable, low-cost interventions for use around the world to build resilience during the pandemic and beyond.

PSACR Study 003 Self Determination (preprint currently under revision; OSF)

A Global Experiment on Motivating Social Distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract: Finding communication strategies that can effectively motivate social distancing continues to be a global public health priority during the COVID-19 pandemic as people around the world wait to be vaccinated. This cross-country preregistered experiment (n=25,718 from 89 countries) tested hypotheses concerning generalizable positive and negative outcomes of different motivational messages encouraging social distancing that either promoted personal agency (i.e., autonomy supportive), or pressured people with shaming and blaming tactics (i.e., controlling). Participants were randomly assigned to three conditions: an autonomy-supportive message promoting reflective choices, a controlling message that was restrictive and shaming, or no message, which functioned to capture the real-life communications participants had been receiving. Results partially supported experimental hypotheses: the controlling message elicited more defiance relative to the autonomy-supportive message and increased controlled motivation (engaging in social distancing out of guilt and fear of social consequences) relative to no message, but messages did not influence behavioral intentions. Additionally, motivation to engage in social distancing out of guilt and fear of consequences correlated with more defiance and less long-term behavioral intentions to engage in social distancing, whereas motivation to engage in social distancing out of a true understanding of why the rules are important and necessary yielded the opposite patterns. Overall, this work highlights the potential harm of using shaming and pressuring language in public health communication.

Profiles of PSACR Contributors

Miguel Silan

Miguel Silan is a researcher in the Philippines affiliated with the University of the Philippines Diliman. He is working to organize the local methodological community to adopt the methods reforms and tackle the various issues of the credibility crisis. 

Migs is a long-time contributor to the PSA, first as a member of the Translation and Cultural Diversity committee, and more recently as the new Assistant Director of the Community Building and Network Expansion Committee (CBNEC). With the committee, he has co-organized the monthly PSA coffee hours, Slack engagement threads, the onboarding/welcome channel and is currently organizing a more targeted recruitment of PSA members in world regions that are under-represented in current memberships. With PSA working groups, he is also planning to establish an accessible expertise sharing within the PSA (“The Hub”) and to establish regional support groups that aims to increase culture sensitive and culturally specific research approaches. In the past Migs organized no less than three sessions for PSACON2020 and has been a frequent contributor on topics related to translation and measurement in different cultural contexts. For PSACR, Migs helped lead the development of the health behavior survey that accompanied the three core PSACR studies and was the language-wide coordinator for the Filipino versions of the PSACR project. 

Biljana Gjoneska

Biljana is a Research Associate at the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts. She has a passion for multinational studies and has participated in eight, four of which were PSA projects. Biljana also loves truly global initiatives like the PSA, where she strives to increase the visibility of her beautifully weird and non-WEIRD country (North Macedonia) in the domains of social psychology and social neuroscience.

Biljana is a more recent member of the PSA but has nevertheless been an extremely active contributor. She has participated in numerous PSA-sponsored hack-a-thons, including one on the PSA’s study selection process at PSACON2020. At PSACON2020, she presented a concept for auction of studies, that may help facilitate discussions and decision-making processes for preselection of PSA proposals. Her cumulative experiences with the PSA community inspired her to contribute to the PSA as one of its leaders; she was recently appointed as an Assistant Director on the PSA’s Ethics Committee. For PSACR, Biljana was the language-wide coordinator for Macedonian, for which she managed a team of five to complete the forward translations, backward translations, and cultural adjustments of our three core studies and the health behavior survey. Bilijana also contributed to the coding of location data for the general dataset; these data serve as the basis for the focal inferences in the three core studies.

İlker Dalgar

İlker is an Assistant Professor at Ankara Medipol University. He is also working on co-founding the Turkey Open Science Initiative, which aims to promote open and robust research practices, facilitate big team science, and facilitate discussion of and training related to research issues in Turkey.

İlker has been a long-time contributor to the PSA as an Assistant Director of the Translation and Cultural Diversity Committee. In this role, İlker helped develop the PSA’s translation procedures and standards, which have by now been implemented in nine PSA studies. İlker has also led or assisted with three PSA-themed grant proposals, all focused around increasing the participation from researchers in world regions currently underrepresented in the PSA network. For PSACR, İlker served as the language-wide coordinator for Turkish, managing a team of thirteen to complete forward and backward translations, as well as cultural adjustments, for all three core studies and our health behavior survey.

Maximilian Primbs

Max is finishing his Research Master’s in Behavioural Science. In fall, 2021, Max will begin a PhD at Radboud University, the Netherlands, where he will study situational models of implicit bias.

Even though Max joined the PSACR project very early in his career, he shouldered a huge responsibility as the project’s primary translation coordinator. For a project involving 44 languages, three primary studies, and a health behavior survey, as well as a translation team of at least 268 people, this was an enormous responsibility. The translation procedure was also more involved than is typical for many projects, involving separate forward translation, backward translation, and cultural adjustment stages. Max rose to the occasion, ensuring this massive task got done in a timely way and assisting team members with troubleshooting when issues inevitably arose. This huge responsibility whet Max’s appetite for “big team science”; Max ran for and won a seat as an Assistant Director of the Translation and Cultural Diversity Committee and has helped organize two PSA-themed conference submissions.

Savannah Lewis

Savannah was a long-time research assistant in Chris Chartier’s lab. She has now transitioned into an Assistant Director position at the Ashland University International Collaborative Research Center. She will soon be looking for PhD programs, likely starting in 2022. 

Savannah was among the PSA’s first crop of interns. She has been the invisible glue holding the PSA together, safeguarding the PSA’s transition into a full-fledged organization. She has done everything from organizing the PSA’s first conference, PSACON2020, to running the PSA’s newsletters, to administering PSA004 Accelerated CREP. For the PSACR projects, Savannah assisted with general administration and technical implementation. In these capacities, she helped manage the master spreadsheet that tracked general project progress and the complex web of interlocking spreadsheets and software that transformed the 44 language versions of the PSACR project into 44 functioning formr surveys.

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