Improving the language of lockdown

Changing the way we report compliance with the latest lockdown rules could help more people stick to the regulations, two leading psychologists have claimed. As the number of coronavirus cases continues to reach worrying levels, fears have grown that the guidance is being ignored amid ‘pandemic fatigue’.

Headlines highlighting rule-breakers holding house parties can create a sense that not obeying the regulations has now become the norm – which may lead other people to ignore them. However, stats show more than 90% of people are continuing to adhere to the rules, even though they are suffering from the mental and financial effects of lockdown.

Changing the narrative and featuring engaging stories which focus on positive behaviour instead could help to resolve the difference between what we think other people are doing and how they actually behave. Steven Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and John Drury, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, discussed the issue in an article published on the BMJ’s website.

They said: “The way in which issues of adherence have been portrayed and understood during this pandemic have been spectacularly wrong. If anything, the headline stories should not be of ‘fatigue’ and ‘covidiots’ and house parties. They should highlight the remarkable and enduring resilience of the great majority of the population.”

The full article is available here on the BMJ’s website.

The question of how to improve compliance has also sparked debate in our Communities discussion forum.

Sign up for our eNewsletter ‘Think’ Sign up