Interview with Orla Vigsø in the Economist
How to frame public health messages so people hear them?
The Economist made an interview with Orla Vigsø, professor at JMG, about effective communication over covid-19, April 4, where he compared Denmark and Sweden.
"...good framing is not enough. Leaders must also be clear and firm. Denmark, which has imposed a lockdown, is a fine example. "Cancel Easter lunch," its government told citizens in no uncertain terms. "Postpone family visits. Don't go sightseeing
around the country." As the Local, a Swedish news website, noticed, that injunction contrasts starkly with the language in Sweden, which (so far) has taken a much softer approach to containing the disease (see Europe section). Its government said:
"Ahead of the breaks and Easter, it is important to consider whether planned travel in Sweden is necessary."
The Danish instructions seem to be working; police report few violations of the rules. As Orla Vigso, a Danish professor ... in Gothenburg, Sweden, says, the strictures are well-calibrated. Danes consider themselves "the anarchists of the Nordic countries". To be made to comply they need to be told directly. But there is a wider lesson. Recommendations that sound more advisory than mandatory seem to presume rational adults will do the right thing with accurate information. The central insight of behavioural economics is that they do not, at least not reliably.
Rule number one in crisis communications, says Mr Vigso, is coherence. Mixed messages allow people to follow their biases and believe whatever they want. America is hobbled in two regards here. Its federal structure means a president, 50 governors and countless mayors are saying different things. And it has a president who said he wanted to see "packed" churches at Easter, then decided otherwise. You're much more likely to tell people what they want to hear if you can't make up your own mind".
Read the full article in this pdf:
How to frame public health messages so people hear them, the Economist, 2020-04-04