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Understanding the emergence of infectious diseases: Social representations and mass media

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Abstract

The present study examines social representations of the threat created by emerging infectious diseases. A free association experiment was carried out in which the stimulus was a news item where the framing of a discourse (human interest vs. attribution of responsibility) was manipulated. Results showed that the human interest discourse sparked off representations linked to vulnerability, while the responsibility discourse produced representations concerning preventive health care promoted by the authorities. Even so, the effect of the discourse was limited and showed that the new information is anchored in previous interpretive schemes. Implications of mass media on health communication are considered.

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... Epidemics are personalized in heroes, villains and victims. The former are the scientific experts (physicists, researchers, etc.) and the health personnel, who are mainly perceived as credible, trustworthy and who carry the burden of curing the sick (Idoiaga et al, 2018). This phenomenon is occurring in the case of the corona virus epidemic. ...
... The comments have the following conten Finally, in advanced stages, the government is questioned, both in the talks and in the media. The comments contain an angry review of the government's previous assurance that the situation was safe for the people and the rulers are personified as villains (Eicher & Bargenter, 2015;Idoiaga, 2018). When the epidemic becomes massive, this objectification of the representation of the crown virus is likely to become important, associated with anger and moral outrage. ...
... Por último, en fases avanzadas se cuestiona al gobierno, tanto en las redes sociales, como en los medios de comunicación. El comentario tiene como contenido una enojada revisión de la anterior garantía del gobierno de que la situación era segura para las personas y los gobernantes son personificados como villanos (Eicher & Bargenter, 2015;Idoiaga, 2018). Cuando la epidemia se masifique es probable que esta representación del coronavirus devenga importante, asociándose a la ira, indignación moral y a movilización sociopolítica. ...
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Esta es una versión ampliada del artículo del mismo título que será publicada en la Revista de Psicología Social, ahora International Journal of Social Psychology, que incluye párrafos que no han sido sometidos a la revisión de pares, así como le bibliografía es mucho mas extensa. This is an expanded version of the paper that will Social representations (SRRs) are conceived as forms of collective symbolic coping. Their theoretical framework describes the processes of meaning creation by which social groups interpret novel events that question their world views, such as when new diseases and catastrophes such as the corona virus emerge (Vala & Castro, 2017). These creative processes take place through the communication that emerges around the event, for example, conversations between individuals, through social media and/or mass media communication. In these processes, representations of the event are constructed and disseminated, which creatively assimilate scientific discourses in a common sense (Pérez, 2004). A first idea is that the greater consumption of information, the type of information (social media versus traditional mass media), as well as the degree of interpersonal communication, will be associated with the content and polarization of beliefs and attitudes. The framework of SSRs suggests clues as to how individuals and groups will develop attitudes, beliefs, images and orientations of shared behaviours about this disease, through processes first of anchorage, then of objectification and characterised by cognitive polyphase. ´ In the case of epidemics, the link established between a new disease and previous ones is usually made through an anchorage mechanism, which integrates the understanding of the new one by framing it in the culture. The process of anchoring makes the unknown more familiar and eventually less threatening (Moscovici, 2000). In the early stages of Covid, its resemblance to the annual flu cycle was raised, de-dramatizing it.
... As mentioned earlier in Findings, The Star published human-interest stories to demonstrate the harmful impact of cyberbullying. Interestingly, previous studies revealed that two of the most widely used frames when dealing with social problems are the attribution of responsibility frame and the human-interest frame (Mondragon, Montes and Valencia, 2018). The frame of attribution of responsibility assigns responsibility for a cause or a solution to the government, group or individual. ...
... The frame of attribution of responsibility assigns responsibility for a cause or a solution to the government, group or individual. Meanwhile, the frame of human-interest provides a human face and affects the emotional charge of the representation of an event, fact or problem (Mondragon, Montes and Valencia, 2018). ...
Article
Cyberbullying refers to aggression that is intentionally and repeatedly carried out in an electronic context (e.g., e-mail, blogs, social networking sites, instant messages, text messages, etc.) against a person who cannot easily defend him- or herself. Cyberbullying is an important phenomenon to research for many reasons. First, although varying prevalence rates have been reported, cyberbullying victimization has been found to occur at frequencies that are cause for concern. Second, it is important to research cyberbullying victimization experiences because many victims experience a range of negative outcomes as a consequence. Third, previous studies found that increased Internet usage has led to increased involvement as perpetrators, victims or witness in cyberbullying. This study aims to examine the coverage of cyberbullying by The Star, which is the English-language daily newspaper with the largest circulation in Malaysia. Framing theory was employed as the theoretical framework, while content analysis was used as the research methods. This study revealed that coverage on cyberbullying in The Star was dominated by the “prevention and intervention strategies” frame. The social problem was also presented as an individual-level problem (episodic framing) as well as societal-level issue (thematic framing). Implications of the findings to the understanding of cyberbullying and framing research were discussed.
... Finally, in advanced phases, the government is questioned in both the social media and the conventional media. This content of these commentaries is an angry revision of the government's earlier guarantee that the situation was safe for people, and government leaders are personified as villains (Eicher & Bangerter, 2015;Idoiaga, Gil, & Valencia, 2018). As the epidemic spreads more widely, this representation of the coronavirus associated with anger, moral indignation and sociopolitical mobilization will likely become more common. ...
... Por último, en fases avanzadas se cuestiona al gobierno, tanto en las redes sociales, como en los medios de comunicación. El comentario tiene como contenido una enojada revisión de la anterior garantía del gobierno de que la situación era segura para las personas y los gobernantes son personificados como villanos (Eicher & Bangerter, 2015;Idoiaga, Gil, & Valencia, 2018). Cuando la epidemia se masifique es probable que esta representación del coronavirus devenga importante, asociándose a la ira, indignación moral y a movilización sociopolítica. ...
Article
This is a reflection on the communication modalities of dissemination, propagation and propaganda as they have manifested in the COVID-19 pandemic. It describes the anchoring of the representations of COVID-19 in past diseases, other nationalities, anti-hygienic practices and groups deviating from the ethos of individualistic self-control. It examines the objectification of the representation of COVID-19 in heroes (healthcare workers), elite villains (pharmaceutical company owners, ineffective governments), common villains (careless people, mindless masses) and victims (the elderly, the poor). It provides explanations and hypotheses on the sociopolitical correlate, the dynamic of common-sense beliefs and their relationship with social behaviour.
... The implementation of effective risk communication in public media is known to influence the public response to an epidemic (Chew & Eysenbach, 2010;Ding & Zhang, 2010;Guidry et al., 2017;Idoiaga Mondragon et al., 2018;Karan et al., 2007;Richardson, 2005;Zhang et al., 2020). Previous studies have also demonstrated that the strategic choice of terms and linguistic devices is critical in risk communication during public health crises. ...
Article
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This article investigates the evolution of social distancing terms in Chinese and English in two geographically close yet culturally distinct metropolitan cities: Hong Kong and Guangzhou. This study of bilingual public health campaign posters during the COVID-19 pandemic focuses on how the evolution of neologisms and linguistic strategies in public health campaigns adapts to different societal contexts. A baseline meaning of the re-purposed linguistic expressions was established according to the BNC corpus for English and the Chinese Gigaword Corpus for Chinese. To establish the link between linguistic expressions and public health events, we converted them to eventive structures using the Module-Attribute Representation of Verbs and added interpersonal meaning interpretations based on Systemic Functional Linguistics.
... The resulting simulations strongly support previous accounts on the process of colonization of new environmental conditions-in this case of new host-pathogens associations under an ecological perspective-and provide new insights into the process of emerging infectious diseases. The overall result of the simulations offers instrumental support to the recognized crisis of emergence of new infectious diseases (Brooks & Ferrao, 2005;Brooks et al., 2014;Fauci, 2001;Mondragon et al., 2018;Morand & Figuié, 2018;Morens et al., 2004). ...
Article
This study evaluates through modeling the possible individual and combined effect of three populational parameters of pathogens (reproduction rate; rate of novelty emergence; and propagule size) on the colonization of new host species – putatively the most fundamental process leading to the emergence of new infectious diseases. The results are analyzed under the theoretical framework of the Stockholm Paradigm using IBM simulations to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of the pathogen population and the possible role of Ecological Fitting. The simulations suggest that all three parameters positively influence the success of colonization of new hosts by a novel parasite population but contrary to the prevailing belief, the rate of novelty emergence (e.g. mutations) is the least important factor. Maximization of all parameters result in a synergetic facilitation of the colonization and emulates the expected scenario for pathogenic microorganisms. The simulations also provide theoretical support for the retention of the capacity of fast‐evolving lineages to retro‐colonize their previous host species/lineage by ecological fitting. Capacity is, thus, much larger than we can anticipate. Hence, the results support the empirical observations that opportunity of encounter (i.e. the breakdown in mechanisms for ecological isolation) is a fundamental determinant to the emergence of new associations – especially Emergent Infectious Diseases ‐ and the dynamics of host exploration, as observed in SARS‐CoV‐2. Insights on the dynamics of Emergent Infectious Diseases derived from the simulations and from the Stockholm Paradigm are discussed.
... First, convergence and normalization phases are ahead of us -in 2022-2023if we are optimistic. Second, some studies of recent infectious epidemics have not found all phases (Idoiaga, 2012;Idoiaga, Gil & Valencia, 2018). Third, as in all phase models, phases often do not occur sequentially in reality, there are phenomena of regressions and leaps -see classical analysis of mourning phase models (Bonano & Boerner, 2007). ...
Article
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This special issue of PSR focuses on the social representations of SARS or Covid- 19. The first study by Pizarro and colleagues analyzes the prevalence of social representations about the Covid-19 pandemic in 17 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia, their association with perceived risk and their anchoring in sociopolitical beliefs, such as RWA and SDO. The second and third articles comment on the social communication processes around Covid-19 in Brazil and France (Apostolidis, Santos, & Kalampalikis, this issue; Justo, Bousfield, Giacomozzi, & Camargo, this issue), the fourth in Italy and a last one in South Africa (de Rosa & Mannarini, this issue; Sitto & Lubinga, this issue). Three studies (fifth, sixth and seventh) examines the structure of social representations related to Covid-19 using questionnaires, the free-association technique and inductive terms like Coronavirus (Colì, Norcia & Bruzzone, this issue; Fasanelli, Piscitelli & Galli, this issue) and the new normality (Emiliani et al., this issue), analyzed by different techniques like automatic lexical analysis (IRaMuTeQ). Finally, Denise Jodelet makes a final comment and closes this issue with a reflection on Covid-19 “a separate epidemic”. In this introduction, rather than summarizing the articles, we will develop the themes and the questions they raise. Keywords: social representations, covid-19; anchorage, propaganda, conspiracy, cognitive polyphasia
... First, convergence and normalization phases are ahead of us -in 2022-2023 -if we are optimistic. Second, some studies of recent infectious epidemics have not found all phases (Idoiaga, 2012;Idoiaga, Gil & Valencia, 2018). Third, as in all phase models, phases often do not occur sequentially in reality, there are phenomena of regressions and leaps -see classical analysis of mourning phase models (Bonano & Boerner, 2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
This special issue of PSR focuses on the social representations of SARS or Covid- 19. The first study analyzes the prevalence of social representations about the Covid-19 pandemic in 17 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia, their association with perceived risk and their anchoring in sociopolitical beliefs, such as RWA and SDO. The second and third articles comment on the social communication processes around Covid-19 in Brazil and France (Apostolidis, Santos, & Kalampalikis, 2020; Justo, Bousfield, Giacomozzi, & Camargo, 2020), the fourth in Italy and a last one in South Africa (de Rosa & Mannarini, 2020; Sitto & Lubinga, 2020). Three studies (fifth, sixth and seventh) examines the structure of social representations related to Covid-19 using questionnaires, the free-association technique and inductive terms like Coronavirus (Colì, Norcia & Bruzzone, 2020; Fasanelli, Piscitelli & Galli, 2020) and the new normality (Emiliani et al., 2020), analyzed by different techniques like automatic lexical analysis (IRaMuTeQ). Finally, Denise Jodelet makes a final comment and closes this issue with a reflection on Covid-19 “a separate epidemic”. In this introduction, rather than summarizing the articles, we will develop the themes and the questions they raise.
... Further analyses show that, while controlling for demographics and real risks (i.e., real numbers of contagion and death) as well as individual orientations (i.e., SDO and RWA), Risk Perception is still a significant predictor for all but one SR. In all, the analyses support the view that perceived risk and a lack of control psychologically anchor these agreements and externalize the disease on others (e.g., Idoiaga Mondragon, Gil de Montes, & Valencia, 2018). Empirically, people tend to make attributions about manipulations by the powerful and reinforce their agreement with beliefs about mismanagement among the economic, media and political elites. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study analyzes the range and content of Social Representations (SRs) about the COVID-19 pandemic in 21 geographical zones from 17 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia (N = 4430). Based on Social Representations Theory, as well as the psychosocial consequences of pandemics and crises, we evaluate the perceptions of severity and risks, the agreement with different SRs, and participants’ Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) and Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). Different sets of beliefs are discussed as SRs, together with their prevalence and association with contextual variables. Results show that severity and risk perceptions were associated with different SRs of the pandemic. Specifically, those focused on Emerging Externalizing zoonotic and ecological factors (the virus is due to Chinese unhygienic habits and the overexploitation of the planet), Polemic Conspiracies (the virus is a weapon), views of Elite and Mass Villains (the elites deceive us and profit with the pandemic), and Personal Responsibility (the neglectful deserves contagion) during the pandemic. Furthermore, most of the SRs are anchored in SDO and, more strongly, in RWA orientations. Additional meta-analyses and multi-level regressions show that the effects are replicated in most geographical areas and that risk perception was a consistent explanatory variable, even after controlling for demographics and ‘real risk’ (i.e., actual numbers of contagion and death). Results suggest that, while coping with and making sense of the pandemic, authoritarian subjects agree with SR that feed a sense of social control and legitimize outgroup derogation, and support punishment of ingroup lowstatus deviants.
... First, convergence and normalization phases are ahead of us -in 2022-2023if we are optimistic. Second, some studies of recent infectious epidemics have not found all phases (Idoiaga, 2012;Idoiaga, Gil & Valencia, 2018). Third, as in all phase models, phases often do not occur sequentially in reality, there are phenomena of regressions and leaps -see classical analysis of mourning phase models (Bonano & Boerner, 2007). ...
Article
Full-text available
Today we are experiencing a radical break in our daily lives in the face of the covid-19 pandemic. Faced with a situation of widespread threat, our societies are caught in an unprecedented spiral of coercive measures and social control. In this context, we are not only witnessing a global health pandemic, but also, and above all, a social pandemic under the prism, in particular, of over-focusing media and the flood of communications. Indeed, the covid-19 is not only a medical and scientific object, but an eminently social one. The social representations approach offers a unique paradigm for studying this exceptional phenomenon. Apostolidis, T., Santos, F. & Kalampalikis, N. (2020). Society against covid-19: challenges for the socio-genetic point of view of social representations. Papers on Social Representations, 29(2), 3.1-3.14
... Las representaciones sociales sobre las enfermedades (Eicher & Bangerter, 2015;Eslava Albarracín & Puntel de Almeida, 2002, Idoiaga Mondragon, Gil de Montes, & Valencia, 2017, especialmente cuando se convierten en epidemias o pandemias, marcan la agenda de los medios (Idoiaga Mondragon, Gil de Montes, & Valencia, 2018). El interés público en la salud se remonta a la antigüedad desde episodios como la extraña muerte de Alejandro Magno (García Gual, 2012), o los registros de la primera epidemia importada desde España a través de los cerdos que trajo Colón en su segundo viaje al nuevo continente (Muñoz-Sanz, 2006;Cordero del Campillo, 2001). ...
Article
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Introducción: El COVID-19 modificó radicalmente las agendas informativas de los medios de comunicación, considerando el vuelco que provocó en la economía global y la cotidianidad de las personas. En este contexto, los medios han sido referentes en la construcción de la realidad y la información pública durante la pandemia. Objetivos: La presente investigación identificó los personajes, instituciones, territorios, temas, controversias y estilos de vida asociados a la pandemia del COVID-19, revelados a través de los contenidos de dos medios de comunicación de Ecuador y Colombia. Metodología: Empleando el Método Histórico-Discursivo (MHD), se analizaron los artículos sobre COVID-19 publicados en la versión digital de los periódicos Expreso, de Guayaquil (Ecuador), y El País, de Cali (Colombia) durante los meses de marzo y abril de 2020. Resultados: El análisis reveló las tensiones entre el ejercicio político y las prioridades sanitarias. Se denota que los alcaldes de Guayaquil y Cali fueron el foco de la información, y que se priorizaron los datos epidemiológicos y la información sobre medidas sanitarias. Conclusión: Nuestro estudio estableció que el cubrimiento sobre el COVID-19 enfocado en los datos de la pandemia, no contribuyó a que los ciudadanos asimilaran el riesgo de la enfermedad, y a que mantuvieran estilos de vida que hicieron que el número de contagios creciera de forma exponencial.
... In recent years, a growing number of studies have focused on social representations in the mass media coverage of various topics (Gezgin, 2018;Idoiaga Mondragon, Gil de Montes, & Valencia, 2018;Isaacs & Mthembu, 2018;Morgan, 2009;Olausson, 2011). Overall, the results suggest a relationship between mass media coverage on abstract topics like science and audience individual beliefs (Hwang & Southwell, 2009). ...
Article
Public acceptance is crucial for the implementation of new energy technologies related to climate change. Supporters promote fracking as a sustainable, flexible and affordable technological revolution, while opponents point to ecological, financial, and social risks for communities. The communication activities of environmental activists play a significant role in shaping this discourse. Based on Social Representation Theory, the current paper presents the findings of a qualitative case study on the media coverage of an attempt to drill at the Baltic Sea in Germany and an environmental action group’s (EAG) subsequent protest against fracking. The findings, contextualized with personal interviews with members of the group, indicate that the loosely organized but highly networked EAG Erdöl Barth had a significant impact on the social and environmental representation in the media over time through their grassroots communication.
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This study explores how the preventive behaviors of restaurant customers towards COVID-19 are shaped by exposure and attention to media coverage, thereby connecting the issues of community anxieties and business resilience during crises. Ways in which media exposure and attention predict COVID-19 preventive behaviors were examined, as these relate to emotional fear responses and cognitive risk perceptions. An online survey was administered in Taiwan during the COVID-19 pandemic to test the proposed research framework. A total of 366 responses were collected using convenience sampling, and structural equation modeling was deployed to examine the hypothesized relationships. Results indicate that consumer fears and risk perceptions were positively influenced by media coverage of COVID-19. Moreover, fear positively affected individual risk perceptions, and risk perception positively influenced restaurant preventive behaviors. Risk perception was also identified as a mediator between a) media exposure and restaurant preventive behaviors and b) media attention and restaurant preventive behaviors.
Article
Full-text available
This study analyzes the range and content of Social Representations (SRs) about the COVID-19 pandemic in 21 geographical zones from 17 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia (N = 4430). Based on Social Representations Theory, as well as the psychosocial consequences of pandemics and crises, we evaluate the perceptions of severity and risks, the agreement with different SRs, and participants’ Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) and Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). Different sets of beliefs are discussed as SRs, together with their prevalence and association with contextual variables. Results show that severity and risk perceptions were associated with different SRs of the pandemic. Specifically, those focused on Emerging Externalizing zoonotic and ecological factors (the virus is due to Chinese unhygienic habits and the overexploitation of the planet), Polemic Conspiracies (the virus is a weapon), views of Elite and Mass Villains (the elites deceive us and profit with the pandemic), and Personal Responsibility (the neglectful deserves contagion) during the pandemic. Furthermore, most of the SRs are anchored in SDO and, more strongly, in RWA orientations. Additional meta-analyses and multi-level regressions show that the effects are replicated in most geographical areas and that risk perception was a consistent explanatory variable, even after controlling for demographics and ‘real risk’ (i.e., actual numbers of contagion and death). Results suggest that, while coping with and making sense of the pandemic, authoritarian subjects agree with SR that feed a sense of social control and legitimize outgroup derogation, and support punishment of ingroup low-status deviants.
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