PSACR 001/002/003


The Psychological Science Accelerator’s Rapid-Response COVID-19 Project (PSACR) is a bundle of three studies project to rapidly select and conduct rigorous, multi-site, and multinational research to understand the psychological and behavioral aspects of the COVID-19 crisis.

PSACR 001: Loss Gain

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. 

The preprint for this study can be found here.

PSACR 002: Cognitive Reappraisal

The COVID-19 pandemic is eliciting intense and prolonged negative emotions that may detrimentally affect health and well-being globally. To enhance resilience, we will teach participants around the world to use a widely studied and generally adaptive form of emotion regulation—cognitive reappraisal—to reduce negative emotions and increase positive emotions. We will randomly assign participants to one of three reappraisal interventions (reconstrual, repurposing, and their hybrid) or a control condition. We predict that relative to the control condition, reappraisal will reduce immediate and anticipated negative emotions, increase immediate and anticipated positive emotions, and enhance emotion regulation self-efficacy. Importantly, we expect reappraisal to reduce intentions to engage in emotion-driven problematic behaviors (e.g., substance use) without reducing intentions to engage in healthy behaviors. Results will inform efforts to create a scalable intervention that governments, organizations, and citizens around the world can employ in order to build emotional resilience during the pandemic and beyond.

The preprint for this study can be found here.

PSACR 003: Self Determination

In order to slow the transmission of COVID-19, governments around the world are asking their citizens to participate in social distancing, that is, to stay at home as much as possible. In most countries, individuals have some choice over whether or not they follow recommendations for social distancing. Thus, understanding how to best motivate social distancing has become a critical public health priority. This study tests, in a confirmatory manner, whether self-determination theory-guided message framing impacts people’s motivation to participate in social distancing. Specifically, we expect autonomy-supportive messages that help people understand the value of behavior change to a) increase ‘buy in’, or autonomous motivation, for social distancing, b) lower feelings of defiance to follow recommendations around social distancing, and c) increase feelings of self-efficacy to participate in social distancing, relative to neutral and controlling messages. Further, we expect controlling messages that pressure people to change using shame, guilt, and threats, may backfire and a) decrease ‘buy in’ for social distancing and b) increase defiance, relative to the control condition. Exploratory tests will examine whether the effects of message framing on motivation and defiance extend to behavioral intentions and long-term commitment. This work has direct relevance for how public officials, health professionals, journalists, and others can communicate about solving this and future public health crises in ways that motivate people more effectively.

The preprint for this study can be found here.