The paper in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research describes two studies that gauged how individuals responded to messages aimed at encouraging them to elevate the goal of staying healthy to be a major part of their self-concept.

The results showed that people who read material asking them to think of their health as a central part of their identity were more likely to wear masks and comply with physical distancing guidelines over the Memorial Day holiday.

The results also highlighted differences in how political conservatives and liberals respond differently to public health messages.

Beatriz Pereira, an assistant professor of marketing at Iowa State University who led the research, says it could inform how public health officials and businesses encourage citizens to change their behaviors, particularly when those behaviors may conflict with other parts of their identity, such as political ideology.

“We’re all composed of multiple identities,” Pereira says. “Everyone’s self-concept has multiple parts, and oftentimes they conflict. We know that people think that being healthy is important, but not everybody thinks that being healthy is central to their self-concept.”

The research involved more than 260 participants who were given reading material before Memorial Day that presented health goals during the pandemic as either central or peripheral to their personalities.

The participants then wrote about their goals for staying healthy and how their health relates to their self-concept. Participants rated their intentions to follow public health recommendations for handwashing, mask wearing, physical distancing, and staying home when possible. Two weeks later, just after the Memorial Day holiday, participants estimated the percentage of time they complied with the public health recommendations.

The results showed that considering health as central to their identity increased participants’ intentions to follow health guidelines.

Read the full article about KEYWORD by [u'Fred Love-Iowa State'] at Futurity