BAPS SUPPORTS THE EXPERT GROUP PSYCHOLOGY & CORONA

(see below for press releases and reports of the expert group)

New challenge

Special corona measures to protect us against the virus have asked an exceptional concerted effort from citizens. The measures infringe on our customary ways of life and require enduring adaptive changes. Whereas specific restrictive measures were initially introduced as temporary we are now evolving towards a new stage of more permanent behavioral change. We now have to turn these adaptive changes into new habits or habitual behavior. New habits take root mainly through frequently repeated planned behavior, so that they become part of new behavioral scripts in our brain that are spontaneously activated without requiring continuous effortful monitoring. In order to facilitate new habit formation psychological research suggests five core principles.

 

Core Principles

  • A clear mental model: Accurate knowledge about the virus and about effective protective behavior to contain contagion risks and prevent new contagion waves is essential. This knowledge should be mentally available and organized into a clear mental model that can easily be activated. Using telling “visuals” is hence a strongly recommended form of effective knowledge transfer. An estimated 10% of all citizens would be characterized by low “health literacy”: they have insufficient access to mainstream communication channels – such as newspapers, television – and/or lack sufficient resources or support to correctly understand and adequately apply health information. New channels and modes of communication will have to be tailored to connect to these segments of society.   

 

  • Knowledge is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for behavioral change. Citizens may know what is protective (e.g., keeping physical distance) yet lack a sense of effectiveness to act accordingly. If some measures are too demanding, effortful or complex, many citizens may start doubting whether they will be able to maintain protective behavior. Moreover, even though each separate measure may be perceived as feasible, citizens may still doubt their ability to apply the combined measures as they go about their daily lives. Clear instructions, high trust, positive role models, defining feasible subgoals, and giving encouraging feedback are effective ways to increase a sense of self-efficacy.

 

  • To enable the formation of habitual behavior, in a first stage planned behavior is crucial. When we have a concrete plan, it is more likely that we will do the right thing and persist. Specific plans such as ‘when I am about to cross someone on a sidewalk, I cross the street ‘work better than more abstract intentions such as ‘I keep my distance’. Also plans to deal with difficult situations or conflicting goals are key (e.g., ‘when I am invited for a BBQ with many friends, I will openly discuss contact restrictions.’). More clear plans make for a stronger chance to act as planned and less self-doubt to persist in difficult situations. Inspiring role models, platforms where ‘good practices’ can be shared, and where different preferences can be expressed, reinforce awareness of the need to plan and effective planning. 

 

  • Autonomous motivation: In addition to health knowledge and self-competence, a sense of ownership is key to sustain the motivated engagement of citizens in changing their behavior. When people understand the importance and endorse the reasons of the measures, they are autonomously motivated to enact these measures. They show a stronger “commitment” so their motivation is more enduring, even when it is hard to resist risky behavior or to keep up civic engagement. The autonomous motivation to behave in line with the measures against the virus has been declining gradually since the start of the lockdown: whereas 80% of the participants in repeated corona surveys were autonomously motivated at the start, today this percentage is down to 50%. At the same time, so-called ‘’must”-ivation has been on the rise, which increases the risk of opportunistic behavior and disengagement from the collective cause of keeping the virus at bay. To foster autonomous motivation, it is key to explain the reasons and the principles of protective behavior, to include different segments of society in more participative ways, to showcase diverse practices that are in line with the measures, to recognize barriers and resistance and to show empathy with dissenters, and to create transparency about the conditions to relax or restrict current measures.   

 

  • Collective purpose: Humans are social beings: they need to belong to social groups, are sensitive to social affirmation or disapproval, and learn through social modeling. The formation of new habits is thus afforded within social groups and will be greatly facilitated if the power of the collective is optimally mobilized. To this end, public communication should highlight the collective purpose of protecting each other against the virus, encourage mutual support and solidarity, recognize connective rituals (such as applauding our health heroes), involve social role models, embedded influencers, and testimonies of their corona experiences, practices and motives or values by citizens from different communities or segments of society. Through positive collective actions or popular media campaigns exemplary adaptive behavior can be effectively modeled and quickly shared at the collective level. When citizens self-identify with a collective purpose, this reinforces collective ownership of the protective measures.

 

  • Behavioral change becomes habitual behavior also through contextual props or ‘nudges’ that support adaptive behavior. In case of nudging the environment is designed so as to elicit adaptive behavior and discourage risk behavior (e.g., arrows on the floor to indicate direction of circulation in a supermarket). Thanks to nudging adaptive behavior can be activated in the situation without conscious effort from the indiviudal person. Implementation should preferably involve behavioral experts as advisers.

 

 

Mission and modus operandi

 

The group developed organically because they felt that the expertise of behavioral scientists and professional psychology was insufficiently represented in different expert panels such as GEES and in policy making committees. The ad hoc group started early May after several individual psychologists had taken initiatives earlier to contribute to the debate in media and at policy making level on managing the Corona crisis.  The group is composed of academics and representatives of professional psychology with specialisations in motivation, social, clinical and health psychology. 

 

The group has the following aims:

  • To advance a conceptual framework on corona-related behavior as a basis for strategic advice

  • To collect and disseminate information on ongoing research and data-based information

  • To write and distribute regular short reports with practical and concrete do’s/don’t’s

  • To develop visibility and building up a direct relationship with media/journalists and committees of other experts and policy makers

  • To become the contact point for questions by media and policy makers on corona-related behavior

 

Structure of the group.

The expert group on "Psychology and Corona" is composed of a core of active members and a broader network of associated members with complementary expertise from different Belgian universities. This composition can change depending on the needed expertise in view of the phase of the Corona crisis. Below is the current list of experts.

Names and affiliations of the current group members:

  • Pauline Chauvier Union Professionnelle des Psychologues Cliniciens Francophones (UPPCF)

  • Geert Crombez Health Psychology, UGent

  • Ann DeSmet, Clinical Health Psychology and Psychosomatics, ULB

  • Philippe de Timary, Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc.

  • Alexis Dewaele, Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, UGent

  • Anne-Marie Etienne, health/clinical psychology, Department of Psychology ULiège

  • Sarah Galdiolo, Department of Clinical Psychology -- children / adolescents, UMons

  • Olivier Klein, social psychology, Department of psychology, ULB

  • Koen Lowet,  Vlaamse Vereniging van Klinisch Psychologen (VVKP)

  • Olivier Luminet health psychology, Research Institute for Psychological Sciences, UCLouvain

  • Karen Phalet, Center for Social and Cultural Psychology, KU Leuven

  • Omer Van den Bergh, Research Group Health Psychology, KULeuven

  • Kris Van den Broeck, Department Primary and Interdisciplinary Care, University of Antwerp

  • Stephan Van den Broucke, health psychology, Research Institute for Psychological Sciences, UCLouvain

  • Elke Van Hoof, health psychology, Department of Psychology, VUB

  • Maarten Vansteenkiste, Department Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, UGent

  • Vincent Yzerbyt,  social psychology - Research Institute for Psychological Sciences, UCLouvain

 

Click here for more information about the members

Press Releases

Press Release 1 (French)

Press Release 1 (Dutch)

Press Release 3 (French)

Press Release 3 (Dutch)

Reports

Report 1

Report 2 (Dutch)

Report 2 (French)

Report 4 (Dutch)

Report 4 (French)

Report 5 (Dutch)

Report 5 (French)

Report on Work full (En)

Report on Work summary (En)

Report on Work summary (Nl)

Report on Work summary (Fr)

SEND INFO ABOUT YOUR COVID-19 INITIATIVES TO BAPS

BAPS is collecting information about all the studies that have been, are still ongoing, or planned to be launched in Belgium regarding psychological dimensions in relation with the covid19 pandemic. The results of those studies can be highly informative for the scientific community but also for the professionals in psychology, and more largely for the political authorities, the media, and the Belgian population.

 

Providing clear scientific evidence at a moment during which so much information – not always reliable or based on scientific evidence – is communicated through various channels is particularly crucial. This initiative is also taken in the broader context of the objective of the executive committee to develop a liaison group at BAPS that will facilitate the communication between researchers in psychological science on the one hand and the public opinion and the media on the other hand.

 

We would therefore like to receive information about all initiatives that are undertaken by Belgian psychological scientists so that we can make these initiatives better known to the large public audience. If you are involved in such studies, please complete the in the following document:

 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cLesVU5ABH9VmZzdjj8D9VI9DR-oHjEhHpSLIjLsBZo/edit?usp=sharing

 

If you are involved in communication to a large audience regarding the current pandemic (this involves blogs, vulgarization articles, long interviews in the generalists and specialized media), please complete the following document:

 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/108uMfNS-NXk3pN__0zSjH95CeV577HUYIbtA0eqYxR0/edit?usp=sharing