Information safety assurances increase intentions to use COVID-19 contact tracing applications, regardless of autonomy-supportive or controlling message framing

Emma L. Bradshaw, Richard M. Ryan, Michael Noetel, Alexander K. Saeri, Peter Slattery, Emily Grundy, Rafael Calvo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Promoting the use of contact tracing technology will be an important step in global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Across two studies, we assessed two messaging strategies as motivators of intended contact tracing uptake. In one sample of 1117 Australian adults and one sample of 888 American adults, we examined autonomy-supportive and controlling message framing and the presence or absence of information safety as predictors of intended contact tracing application uptake, using an online randomized 2 × 2 experimental design. The results suggested that the provision of data safety assurances may be key in affecting people’s intentions to use contact tracing technology, an effect we found in both samples regardless of whether messages were framed as autonomy-supportive or controlling. Those in high information safety conditions consistently reported higher intended uptake and more positive perceptions of the application than those in low information safety conditions. In Study 2, we also found that perceptions of government legitimacy related positively to intended application uptake, as did political affiliation. In sum, individuals appeared more willing to assent to authority regarding contact tracing insofar as their data safety can be assured. Yet, public messaging strategies alone may be insufficient to initiate intentions to change behavior, even in these unprecedented circumstances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number591638
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2021


  • autonomy
  • controlling
  • coronavirus
  • information security
  • message framing
  • self-determination theory

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