Article by Camilla Barbarossa, Michela Patrizi, Maria Vernuccio, Maria Carmen Di Poce, Alberto Pastore.
Publised in Health Policy

Western governments’ attempts to encourage young adults to adopt COVID-19 contact tracing apps (CTAs) have been unsuccessful. Drawing on psychological reactance theory, we propose that government-imposed containment measures (e.g., lockdowns, curfews) may cause young adults to resist CTAs. We investigate how and when threats to freedom posed by government-imposed containment measures to young adults reduce their CTA adoption intentions.

We conducted a survey of young adults during the second general lockdown (March‒April 2021) in Italy. The results show that when young Italian adults focus on the restrictive nature of government-imposed containment measures, their sense of freedom is threatened.

Threats to freedom produce psychological states of either helplessness or reactance, depending on if young Italian adults think they can recover their freedom. Helpless young adults are motivated to adopt CTAs because they seek guidance from containment measures.

Reactant young adults resist CTAs because they exhibit aversive psychological states toward containment measures. These results offer relevant insights for policymakers. They shed light on young Italian adults’ resistance toward CTAs. They also inform governments on how to interact more efficiently with young adults if a novel pandemic should occur.

research article resistance toward covid 19 contact tracing