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Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health

Together for more healthy years

Symposium: Insights into behavioral and policy challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic

When:Th 18-03-2021 11:00 - 13:00
Where:Online

The Social Sciences Centre for Health and Well-being and the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health organize an online symposium, focused on (understanding) the public's response to Covid-19 and what lessons can be learnt from this pandemic.

One of the great challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic is the large-scale behavioural change it requires to contain the virus. Insights from the social and behavioural sciences can provide important contributions regarding how to align human behaviour. In this symposium we discuss insights from this area: How do group processes help our understanding of public responses to the pandemic? What motivates (non)compliance to Covid-regulations? We then relate these insights to public policy: what lessons we can learn for the future from this pandemic regarding the use of scientific knowledge in crisis management? More broadly: which vulnerabilities in public health and governance does this crisis expose?

We have invited three experts to present their work and insights into these questions. See more details below and register!

Programme

11.00 Opening
Dr. Katherine Stroebe
Director of Social Sciences Centre for Health and Well-being
11.15 Prof. John Drury, University of Sussex
How have the public responded to the Covid-19 pandemic? Understanding the role of group processes.
11.45 Dr. Pontus Leander, University of Groningen
How does one study a pandemic in real-time?
12.15 Prof. Michel Dückers, University of Groningen, Nivel & ArqImpact
Community engagement and decision-making during the Covid-19 pandemic - How the crisis exposed vulnerabilities in public health and governance
12.40 Panel discussion with the presenters
13.00 Closing

Speakers

speakers

John Drury

Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, specializes in the study of collective behavior. Among others, he studies how crowds respond to emergencies. John is among a group of independent social behaviour experts advising the government on how to help people adhere to Covid-19 interventions.

Topic: How have the public responded to the Covid-19 pandemic? Understanding the role of group processes.

In the absence of a vaccine, behaviour by the public is key to the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have expressed doubts about the extent to which the public are able to engage effectively with the required behaviour: Will they over-react or under-react? Will selfishness prevail over the required solidarity? Research on other types of crises and emergencies demonstrates the role of group processes in determining the answers to these questions.

In this presentation, I analyse the role of group processes in the Covid-19 pandemic in two key domains: adherence by the public to the required public health behaviours; and determinants of community mutual aid. If the public response to the pandemic is a function of variables and conditions rather than psychological fixed tendencies, then change is possible. Therefore, properly understanding the role of group processes means we can help design more effective interventions to support collective resilience in the public the face of the pandemic and other threats. I will draw upon the recent research evidence and my own experience of government advisory groups to discuss the most and least effective public health interventions in the pandemic.

pontus

Pontus Leander

Associate Professor of Organizational Psychology at the University of Groningen, studies people’s (implicit) motivations in shaping people's thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Pontus has set up a multinational collaborative study in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (PsyCorona) focusing on psychological factors that predict how people respond to the coronavirus and to the associated public health measures.

Topic: How does one study a pandemic in real-time?

In a fast-moving crisis, behavioural scientists need rapid, holistic methods to pinpoint the theoretical constructs most relevant to a given problem. In March 2020, UG researchers launched a global crisis-response project to identify key predictors of individual-level compliance with recommended virus prevention behaviours. Fifty-seven thousand respondents’ survey data were then enriched with country-level variables, such as COVID-19 infections, societal characteristics, and lockdown policies. In this talk, I will reflect on our attempt at a holistic approach, describe our rapid-research strategy, and present machine learning results that reduced 115 potential predictors to the most important few.

Duckers

Michel Dückers

Professor by special appointment at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences at the University of Groningen, program leader disasters and environmental threats at Nivel and scientific advisor at ARQ Knowledge Center Impact of Disasters and Crises. Michel studies the vulnerability of people in communities in the Netherlands and abroad during disasters and crises, most recently the corona crisis. He also advises governments on health research and aftercare in calamities.

Topic: Community engagement and decision-making during the Covid-19 pandemic – How the crisis exposed vulnerabilities in public health and governance

Societies can be confronted with disasters and major incidents that form a serious threat to population well-being, safety and health. The Covid-19 pandemic is challenging governments at different levels in many countries across the world for more than a year now to address a variety of public health risks. The measures taken – including social distancing, facemasks, lockdowns and curfews – have an enormous social and economic impact. Apart from weak spots in public health, that are typically exposed or emphasized in times of crises, the current coronavirus-induced crisis highlights a tension between top-down emergency decision-making (short-term risks) and bottom-up dialogue between governments and societal stakeholders in a climate of increased pressure, stress and human losses (long-term risks). This tension is reflected in the struggle by public health authorities to set up and maintain community engagement processes, and utilize insights from medical science as well as social science. I will discuss these and other potential early lessons we can already learn from the Covid-19 pandemic against the background of the emotional conjuncture of crisis-affected societies. Covid-19 might serve as a window of opportunity to further advance our public crisis decision-making model on behalf of other crises looming in the nearby future.