Effective responder communication improves efficiency and psychological outcomes in a mass decontamination field experiment: implications for public behaviour in the event of a chemical incident

Carter, Holly, Drury, John, Amlôt, Richard, Rubin, G. James and Williams, Richard (2014) Effective responder communication improves efficiency and psychological outcomes in a mass decontamination field experiment: implications for public behaviour in the event of a chemical incident. PLoS ONE, 9 (3). e89846. ISSN 1932-6203

[img]
Preview
PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (289kB) | Preview

Abstract

The risk of incidents involving mass decontamination in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear release has increased in recent years, due to technological advances, and the willingness of terrorists to use unconventional weapons. Planning for such incidents has focused on the technical issues involved, rather than on psychosocial concerns. This paper presents a novel experimental study, examining the effect of three different responder communication strategies on public experiences and behaviour during a mass decontamination field experiment. Specifically, the research examined the impact of social identity processes on the relationship between effective responder communication, and relevant outcome variables (e.g. public compliance, public anxiety, and co-operative public behaviour). All participants (N = 111) were asked to visualise that they had been involved in an incident involving mass decontamination, before undergoing the decontamination process, and receiving one of three different communication strategies: 1) Health-focused explanations about decontamination, and sufficient practical information; 2) No health-focused explanations about decontamination, sufficient practical information; 3) No health-focused explanations about decontamination, insufficient practical information. Four types of data were collected: timings of the decontamination process; observational data; and quantitative and qualitative self-report data. The communication strategy which resulted in the most efficient progression of participants through the decontamination process, as well as the fewest observations of non-compliance and confusion, was that which included both health-focused explanations about decontamination and sufficient practical information. Further, this strategy resulted in increased perceptions of responder legitimacy and increased identification with responders, which in turn resulted in higher levels of expected compliance during a real incident, and increased willingness to help other members of the public. This study shows that an understanding of the social identity approach facilitates the development of effective responder communication strategies for incidents involving mass decontamination.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: communication; decontamination; social identity; crowd behaviour
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Depositing User: John Drury
Date Deposited: 01 May 2014 09:28
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2017 15:14
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/48323

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update
Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
UnsetUnsetHealth Protection AgencyUnset