The Roles of Leadership and Social Norms in Health Communication in the Context of COVID-19

Published: 29 June 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/x3n27drkbw.1
Fatih Bayrak


The whole world has been struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic for almost three years. Although national and local leaders have often called on the public to comply with preventive measures through health communication, crowds sometimes violate precautions and do not adequately follow these calls. We propose that identity entrepreneurship characteristic of leaders and social norms might play an essential role in effective health communication. In line with this notion, we investigated the effects of the leadership and social norm types on complying with preventive measures, the intention to be vaccinated, and prosocial behavior through a highpowered experiment that focused on the leadership quality (presence/lack of entrepreneurship), descriptive norm (supportive/obstructive), and injunctive norm (supportive/obstructive). We found that when supporting injunctive and descriptive norms are present, people tend to adhere more to preventive measures, get vaccinated, and engage in pro-social behavior. There was also a significant effect of the interaction between descriptive and injunctive norms on compliance with preventive measures. The compliance level was highest when both norm types were supportive, but the compliance level was lowest when both were obstructive. The effect was decreased in the discrepant norms condition, where one type of the norm was supportive and the other obstructive. There is also a significant interaction between leadership and descriptive norm, indicating when there is an entrepreneur leader and supportive descriptive norm, compliance with the preventive measure increases. We discussed the role of leadership and social norms in effective health communication.



Social Psychology