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Influencing a nation: how a leader’s interpersonal emotion regulation influences citizen compliance via trust and emotions during a global pandemic

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-14, 08:23 authored by Bernadette Naughton, DEIRDRE O'SHEADEIRDRE O'SHEA, Lisa van der Werff, Finian Buckley

During crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, it was necessary for political leaders to influence citizens to comply with public health measures and restrictions. These health measures (e.g., physical distancing, staying at home) had substantial negative effects on individuals’ lives and thus were sometimes met with defensive, noncooperative responses. To influence citizens’ compliance with public health guidance and nationally imposed restrictions, political leaders needed to effectively motivate them through their public communications. We argue that while negative emotions may have discouraged citizens from deviating from public health restrictions, other factors such as citizens’ trust in political leaders played a role as well. We investigated whether the perception of the interpersonal emotion regulation (IER) strategies used by government leaders in ministerial briefings impacted citizens’ compliance intentions via either negative affect or perceived trustworthiness. Across three studies based in Western Europe (Studies 1 and 2 survey, Study 3 experimental), we consistently found that a leader’s affect-improving IER strategies increased compliance intentions via perceived trustworthiness but not via negative affect. Affect-worsening IER strategies demonstrated either no effect or an indirect worsening effect on the compliance intentions of citizens. Our findings highlight the importance of IER strategies in ministerial briefings and perceived trustworthiness of political leaders in motivating citizens to comply with public health restrictions during a pandemic.





American Psychological Association

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