Motivating voluntary compliance to behavioural restrictions: Self-determination theory–based checklist of principles for COVID-19 and other emergency communications

Frank Martela, Nelli Hankonen, Richard M. Ryan, Maarten Vansteenkiste

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

An effective response to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is dependent on the public voluntarily adhering to governmental rules and guidelines. How the guidelines are communicated can significantly affect whether people will experience a sense of self-initiation and volition, protecting compliance from eroding. From the perspective of Self-Determination Theory, a broad theory on human motivation and its interpersonal determinants, effective communication involves the delicate combination of providing rules and structure in a caring and autonomy-supportive way. Research in applied domains from public messaging to education and health has shown that when social agents set limits in more autonomy-supportive, caring, and competence-fostering ways, it predicts autonomous forms of compliance, which in turn predict greater adherence and long-term persistence. Building on SDT, integrated with insights from social identity theory, we derive a practice-focused checklist with key communication guidelines to foster voluntary compliance in national crises such as the prevention of COVID-19 spread.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-347
Number of pages43
JournalEuropean Review of Social Psychology
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Autonomy-support
  • crisis response
  • interpersonal interaction
  • motivational style
  • self-determination theory

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