How identification with the social environment and with the government guide the use of the official COVID-19 contact tracing app: Three quantitative survey studies

This article was originally published here

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2021 Sep 17. doi: 10.2196/28146. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Official contact tracing apps have been implemented and recommended for use across nations to track and contain the spread of COVID-19. Such apps can be effective if people are willing to use them. Accordingly, many attempts are being made to motivate citizens to make use of the officially recommended apps.

OBJECTIVE: The present research sought to contribute to an understanding of the preconditions under which people are willing to use this app (i.e., their use intentions and actual use). To go beyond personal motives in favor of app use, it takes people’s social relationships into account; doing so, it argues that the more people identify with the beneficiaries of app use (i.e., people living close by in their social environment) and with the source recommending the app (i.e., members of the government), the more likely they will be to accept the officially recommended contact tracing app.

METHODS: Before, right after, and five months after the official contact tracing app was launched in Germany, a total of 1044 people participated in three separate studies. Structural equation modeling tested the hypotheses, examining the same model in all studies at these critical points in time.

RESULTS: Across studies, both identification with the beneficiaries (people living in their social environment) and with the source recommending the app (members of the government) predicted greater intention to and actual use of the official contact tracing app. Trust in the source (members of the government) served as mediator. Other types of identification (with people in Germany or people around the world) did not explain the observed results. The findings were highly consistent across the three studies.

CONCLUSIONS: Attempts to motivate people to use new health-technology (or potentially new measures more generally) not only for their personal, but for collective benefits should take the social context into account-that is, the social groups people belong to and identify with. The more important the beneficiaries and the sources of such measures are to people’s sense of the self, the more willing they will likely be to adhere to and support such measures.

PMID:34662289 | DOI:10.2196/28146