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Does autonomous motivation matter in COVID-19 prevention? Quality of motivation as predictor of protective behavior intention

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Title: Does autonomous motivation matter in COVID-19 prevention? Quality of motivation as predictor of protective behavior intention
Author(s): Pietilä, Meri
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master 's Programme in Social Research (SOSM)
Specialisation: Social Psychology
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Background: Management of the COVID-19 pandemic has required behavior change of masses, as governments and authorities around the globe have guided adoption of protective behaviors, such as wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing. Citizens’ volitional engagement in protective behaviors is essential for reducing the spread of the virus, as much of the required adherence is beyond authorities’ control and difficult to supervise. Building on the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) (Ryan & Deci, 2017), this study explores associations between quality of motivation to adhere to protective measures in two situations: when meeting people outside one’s household indoors and inside a café, a restaurant, or a bar. Method: Cross-sectional survey study involving a nationally representative sample of over 18 year-old residents of Finland (N = 2272) was conducted in May of 2021. As part of this survey, data on quality of motivation (autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, amotivation), personal perceived risk, fear towards COVID-19, and situation specific intentions of wearing a face mask or avoiding the situation was collected. The associations between quality of motivation and intention were investigated in a series of multinomial regression analyses, controlling for perceived personal risk and fear towards COVID-19. Findings: Autonomous motivation (range Exp(B) = 1.82‒3.51, p = .001) consistently predicted intention to wear a mask and intention to avoid meeting people. The effects of controlled motivation (range Exp(B) = .66‒.93, p = .001‒.078) and amotivation (range Exp(B) = .65‒1.02, p = .001‒.911) varied across analyses. Control variables' effects diminished or lost significance in models with autonomous motivation. Conclusions: Fostering autonomous motivation could increase adherence to protective behaviors in situations without clear mandates. The results also suggest that increasing perceptions of pressure, personal risk, and fear may not advance adherence effectively. In future studies, it would be beneficial to investigate approach and avoidant components of introjected regulation as separate constructs. Autonomous motivation could be investigated as a mediator for the fear towards COVID-19 and risk perception’s association with protective behavior intention.
Keyword(s): motivation self-determination theory COVID-19 protective behavior face mask intention behavior change

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