I Think, Therefore I Act: The Influence of Critical Reasoning Ability on Trust and Behavior During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Alex Segrè Cohen, Lauren Lutzke, Caitlin Drummond Otten, Joseph Árvai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Actively open-minded thinking (AOT) operates in three dimensions: it serves as a norm accounting for how one should search for and use information in judgment and decision making; it is a thinking style that one may adopt in accordance with the norm; and it sets standards for evaluating the thinking of others, particularly the trustworthiness of sources that claim authority. With the first and third dimensions in mind, we explore how AOT influences trust in public health experts, risk perceptions, and compliance with recommended behaviors aimed at slowing the spread and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using survey data from a nationally representative sample of Americans (N = 857), we tested whether AOT will lead people to place greater trust public health experts (H1). Because these experts have been consistently messaging that COVID-19 is a real and serious threat to public health, we also hypothesized that trust in experts would be positively associated with high perceived risk (H2), which should have a positive influence on (self-reported) compliance with CDC recommendations (H3). And because AOT is a self-directed thinking style, we also expected it to directly influence risk perceptions and, by extension, compliance (H4). Our results support all four hypotheses. We discuss the implications of these results for how risk communication and risk management efforts are designed and practiced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1073-1085
Number of pages13
JournalRisk Analysis
Volume42
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Behavior
  • COVID-19
  • critical reasoning
  • risk perception
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)

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