Self- versus other-directed outcomes, Machiavellianism, and hypothetical distance in COVID-19 antipandemic messages

Yidan Huang1, Shu Yang1, JiaMin Dai1
1Department of Business, HuaQiao University, People’s Republic of China
Cite this article:  Huang, Y., Yang, S., & Dai, J. (2021). Self- versus other-directed outcomes, Machiavellianism, and hypothetical distance in COVID-19 antipandemic messages. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 49(3), e10109.

Volume 49 Issue 3 | e10109 | Published: March 2021 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.10109

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Public health information with a fear appeal is often used to promote people’s positive health intentions. Anchored by the extended parallel process model and trait activation theory, in this study we examined the effects of self- versus other-directed outcomes, Machiavellianism, and hypothetical distance on the effectiveness of fear-appeal information in the context of COVID-19. In an online survey of 303 people in Wuhan, China, we found that respondents high in Machiavellianism reported stronger antipandemic intentions in response to a self-directed compared to an other-directed outcome message. This effect was actualized through the trait of Machiavellianism, moderated by hypothetical distance, and mediated by perceived severity. Our findings have implications for the effective development and delivery of public health information for specific groups, and for encouraging more detailed exploration of personality in relation to epidemiology.

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