“If the Corona regulations continue to come without explanation, they will not be accepted”


“Initially, the public was willing to accept instructions from officials. In March there was obedience, the public changed the behavior amazingly: the Passover Seder is an unprecedented example of a change in ingrained behavior following a crisis. Part of the public’s readiness comes from the perception that says, “I currently believe what I am told, and decisions are made on the basis of important science or interests.”

But already in the first wave we heard a lot of criticism of the policies and decisions.

“It’s not that everyone agreed. Some people find the guidelines excessive at first. But there was a change in behavior, even if people did not agree they complied with the instructions. Part of that, I believe, stemmed from anxiety. In persuasion processes there are situations called Fear Appeals, inquiries that are based on fear. Initially, the broadcasts on the Corona talked about thousands of respirators, and that the health system would collapse. Scaring people can be very effective, but it has conditions: the threat must be severe, people need to understand that it affects them personally, that what they offer to do is effective in reducing their risk, and that we are all within it. At first it succeeded because the public was convinced. but what? Persuasion is a process in which if the elements of the script are loosened, the person asks questions and rethinks if he believes what he is told, and this influences his decisions ”.

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Dr. Nehama Luis Persky, Health Communication Researcher at the University of Haifa Photo: Gil Nehushtan

“The first element is the severity of the plague. Pretty soon it was discovered that the officials had taken an overreaction. Understand that the disease does not severely affect populations not aged 80 and over with background diseases. I am not a doctor and I do not talk about what the virus actually does, but about how people perceived its effect and the risk inherent in it. The public has seen that the reality contradicts the published risk assessments. Talkbacks are a good measure of public mood. A month after the outbreak of the plague an article was published with the number and ages of Matti the corona. Respondents were angry: ‘We were told it hurt everyone, but it’s only 90, and a few people.’ The public thought that what he was told might not have been true. ”

“There was also a problem of personal example – they told us what to do and did other things themselves. Then also the matter of what we are told to do loosened up. Let us take the matter of the permit to go within a radius of 100 meters from the house: the public is willing to obey such a directive to the extent that it understands the logic behind it. All sorts of decisions were made about what was allowed and what was not allowed that seemed irrational. For example: synagogues yes and restaurants no, hotel pool yes and public pools no. The public looks at it and recognizes an internal contradiction. Then he realizes that maybe he needs to make decisions independently. “Suddenly it seems that what he is being told is not in the public interest and on an empirical scientific basis.”

Implications of the transition to a powerful consumer model

“The public organizes in its interest groups in the face of restrictions, especially if it happens with a zero alert, as it did with the restaurants. The public realizes that this is unlikely. The move even gets some kind of public support because it is no longer willing to absorb something that seems illogical.”

“This is a positive step. Whoever is at the forefront should be someone the public is willing to believe in, an expert who is perceived as understanding. It can also have a positive effect on the situation that has arisen, where the public is no longer willing to accept decrees. “Without an explanation, there will be a backlash. We need someone who not only directs instructions but explains and builds trust. And now we are beginning to explain the considerations behind decisions.”

“Right. Gamzo is trying to promote the right move and is having political and bureaucratic difficulties. This is the government and these groups there are in society, and he must navigate this thing in relation to external influences. There is no one who can make a decision without considering these things.”

“In the field of economics and health today there is a shift from a model of a consumer who has less power to a model of a consumer of power. Suddenly a person feels he can make decisions about his daily life: how to save for retirement, negotiate wages, when and how to get medical care. “He sits in front of the Internet, searches for information and on the basis of it feels that he can and is able to make decisions for himself.”

“For example, on the subject of masks. If I look for information in places I think are reliable and find information that denies the effectiveness of masks, I can be convinced of that and conclude that I should not. And if in the evening I watch a broadcast with other information, I will give more weight to information I found myself. At the moment, we are in a place where every person is trying to figure out for himself what he can and thinks is the right thing to do. Of part of the public in the system. ”

“I would not want to be in the position of decision makers, and should give credit to those who managed the crisis: work was done to save lives. In retrospect, they could have more involved the public in the decision-making process and basis. People are convinced by evidence, they do not want to hear only the bottom line. “The public is more willing to come to you if they are convinced that the interests and considerations are in the public interest. It is not done enough.”

“Ignoring rumors is dangerous”

“Right now there is a decline in trust and it will take time to rebuild what has been damaged. If they start treating the public in a way that more respects their freedom and their distress and contains the difficulty, it will be possible to slowly restore trust. I see it as a kind of relationship. There are conflicting interests. “For each other, for example the teachers versus the parents of the children, there is so much antagonism there right now. It’s because people feel the situation is unfair.”

“True, but the crisis highlighted the rifts and gaps, for example in the matter of learning from home. Whoever sits in a big house with a computer per child is less harmed by the situation, and whoever sits in a cramped apartment when every child has no computer is much more harmed by the situation.”

“The public no longer needs to quickly understand what is going on, we already know more or less what it is about. My colleague measured the concerns of Israelis. In the first wave it was about Corona, now it is mainly economic concerns. It establishes the feeling that the Corona crisis changes from a story of illness and health. “More socio-economic, and it will only intensify. Therefore, it is right to tell the public what the basis for decisions is and how it connects to its economic situation.”

“Let’s take gyms, for example. It affects the lives of people from whom they earn a living and also the people where training is part of their daily routine. And they rightly ask, what is the basis for the decision to close. I do not see the explanation referring to it. In the case of wedding halls make sure to report that it is a source of infection, bring to the media data that show it is a risk factor. So people understood that there is an empirical basis for closure. This is what should be done in every area: come, explain and persuade. The process. ”

“This is an approach that is detrimental to the public’s willingness to obey. A situation of regression has been created. Of a situation where the public is angry and does not trust and is unwilling to cooperate. “Another is an almost impossible task. It’s the fear. People will say, ‘We were fine in the first wave, and now look where we are. You are not telling us things that seem rational.'”

“People are looking for information, especially in situations where they think they have a lack or they find a contradiction. And they will be persuaded by things that seem surprising and dramatic. People do not always know how to differentiate between credible and unreliable information. “Wrong, what are the rumors. It is important to follow this because it affects people’s decision-making. In the official explanation, the rumors were not addressed and they continue to circulate. Ignoring will not solve the problem.”


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