Does Exposure to Risk Communication About Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (COVID-19) Predict Protective Behaviors? Testing the Moderating Role of Optimistic Bias

Hongliang Chen, David Atkin, Qike Jia


Originating at the end of 2019, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) shocked the world. Drawing on the health belief model, the current study investigates how risk communication influences public perceptions about the disease and adoption of preventive behaviors. Analyzing the data from 1,591 Chinese respondents from 31 provinces in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic, this study found that exposure to media risk communication contributed to lower perceived barriers, which in turn, increased engagement in the uptake of preventive behaviors. Compared with the information released by nongovernment organizations, medical providers, and Internet users, information from government sources exerted greater influence over individuals’ perceptions and behavioral change. Interpersonal risk communication was found to be effective in promoting preventive behaviors. Moreover, optimistic bias moderated the effects of knowledge about COVID-19 and perceived barriers on preventive behaviors. The findings provided implications about how to better engage the public to adopt preventive measures.


COVID-19, media risk communication, information sources, optimistic bias, preventive behaviors

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