RiCoRT project: risk communication and social norms in the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic requires to redesign social interaction in a way that protects against infection. Orientation to new social norms that stipulate adherence to protective measures gain in importance in this situation. In particular, social norms of one's own reference group have a significant influence on one's own behavior.

In the RiCoRT project, an online survey was conducted with 1000 young (18-30 years) and 1000 older adults (50-70 years). Social norms of significant others related to protective behaviors – to how they behave and what they approve of - were found to be significant influencers of infection-protective behavioral intentions (AHA+A+L rules, reducing contacts, symptom behaviors, and vaccination) in both target groups.

Risk communication should harness this influence. Social norm communication should portray that the majority of a reference group behaves in an infection-protective manner (descriptive norm) or positively values infection-protective behaviour (injunctive norm) when empirical evidence exists. Dissemination of the new social norms of infection-protective behavior should be promoted through multipliers and citizens should be encouraged to communicate the new norms to their network.