OBJECTIVES: Self-efficacy is important for adherence to transmission-reducing behaviours (e.g., physical distancing) as also shown in the CHARIS project. We aimed to show that a theory-based short message can increase physical distancing self-efficacy and intentions to keep physical distance.
DESIGN: Structured telephone surveys with a randomly selected nationally representative sample of adults in Scotland (N = 497).
METHODS: Participants were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions: message condition (short message to increase self-efficacy via vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and emotional arousal) or control condition (no message). Followed by measures for self-efficacy and intention for physical distancing on 4-point scales. Adherence to physical distancing was assessed on a 5-point frequency scale (never - always).
RESULTS: Using mediation analyses with bootstrapping procedures, we first confirmed that self-efficacy was associated indirectly with adherence, via higher intentions in a partial mediation (unstandardized indirect effect .21, 95% CI .18-.25). The message increased self-efficacy; participants receiving the message reported higher self-efficacy (M = 4.23, SD = .80) compared to participants in the control condition (M = 4.08, SD = .77; standardized regression coefficient = .19, p < .05) and self-efficacy affected intention (.48, p < .001). There was a small significant indirect effect of the message on intention via self-efficacy (unstandardized indirect effect .07, CI .01-.14).
CONCLUSIONS: Increasing self-efficacy for physical distancing with a short message can successfully increase intention to physical distance via increased self-efficacy. As both self-efficacy and intentions are important predictors of adherence to transmission-reducing behaviours short messages have potential to limit the spread of COVID-19.