Harnessing the Power of Words to Address the COVID-19 Crisis

AuthorKatherine Farrow,Gilles Grolleau,Naoufel Mzoughi
Published date01 February 2023
Date01 February 2023
Subject MatterPerspectives
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(2) 294 –307
© The Author(s) 2022
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DOI: 10.1177/00953997221133498
Harnessing the Power of
Words to Address the
COVID-19 Crisis
Katherine Farrow1, Gilles Grolleau2,3,
and Naoufel Mzoughi4
Behavioral public administration theory suggests that seemingly irrelevant
word choice manipulations can influence behavior. We contend that the
power of words has frequently been overlooked in the COVID-19 crisis.
Given that most decisions mobilize System 1 cognition, words can be an
important tool in pursuing socially-desirable outcomes. Beyond their
substantive content, words choice matters because language operates largely
via automatic processes. Based on findings from this literature, words can be
harnessed to induce behavioral change aligned with public health objectives.
We elucidate several mechanisms through which these effects are likely to
occur and suggests concrete applications to the COVID-19 crisis.
behavior, COVID-19, frames, words
In addressing the COVID-19 crisis, all types of policy tools should be
explored. The most critical measures on the frontline are medical, that is,
monitoring, treatment, and vaccine administration. However, citizens can
1EconomiX, University of Paris Nanterre, France
2ESSCA School of Management, Lyon, France
3CEE-M, Univ. Montpellier, CNRS, INRAE, Institut Agro, France
Corresponding Author:
Naoufel Mzoughi, INRAE, ECODEVELOPPEMENT, CS 40509, Avignon 84914, France.
Email: naoufel.mzoughi@inrae.fr
1133498AAS0010.1177/00953997221133498Administration & SocietyFarrow et al.

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