name of thrones
The impact of pandemic-related message framing on consumer perceptions and decisions
The impact of pandemic-related message framing on consumer perceptions and decisions
Researchers: Dr. Michael Barbera, Dr. Stevie Pena, EJ Song, Wendy Hubbard, and Shai Smith
Disease names could influence human behavior. Naming conventions could impact consumer decisions, revenue generation, or influence a human to harass another human. Geographically-named diseases could impact travel, such as Zika’s effect in Uganda, and Ebola in Congo/Zaire, along with trade and commerce, similar to the Rift Valley Fever virus impacting agriculture. Furthermore, a disease name could have a positive outcome for one community and an adverse outcome for another. This study identifies how naming conventions for the COVID-19 pandemic could impact people, products, and profits.
A rose will smell the same regardless of its title. Names shape behavior; otherwise, Johnny Cash’s “A boy named Sue” would lack its irony. Hence, names provide a reference point, which helps people recognize and identify people, places, and things.
The medical community bestowed the honor of naming diseases after their founding physicians and scientists. Names such as Chrohn’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Addison’s diseases reflect this naming convention. However, diseases named after the geographic location escape this honor.
Events surrounding World War I devastated much of the world’s population, and the Spanish flu is high on the list of offenders. This deadly virus infected one-third of the earth’s population, killing 50 million people worldwide. Despite its name, the virus most likely originated in New York City or England, later traveling through France to Spain. War efforts may have excused early notification, setting up neutral Spain’s broadcast of their Soldier from Naples disease, named after the “highly contagious” song of the time. The disease created Spain’s first population decrease, and this devastation justified keeping the name despite its inaccurate portrayal of the geographic origin.
Although the Spanish flu’s geographical misnomer is well known, geographic-based naming conventions for diseases could deter travelers. Lyme disease often creates fear in travelers who visit Old Lyme, Connecticut. The geographic naming convention based on Old Lyme, Connecticut may not deter the masses, yet select merchants capitalize on their distinction through Lyme t-shirts commemorating the illness; however, the name elicits caution to outdoor adventurers. The residents of the town of Hendra, Australia, experience aggression from bordering towns due to the spreading of the geographic-named Hendra disease – a lethal equine disease.
Understanding the possible devastation names may influence, the Navajo tribes launched a campaign to limit the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) proposed naming convention for the Muerto Canyon virus., which attempted to describe the location of the affected people. As the disease’s starting point was New Mexico, the Death Canyon reference moved the origin into Canyon del Muerto, Arizona. The Navajo Nation Tribe addressed the CDC to advocate for a revised name. The CDC agreed to rename the virus: Hantavirus.
Saudi Arabia and Jordan dispute which country originated Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The name represents the encompassing geographic location. The initial MERS outbreak affected its origin namesake, yet it was South Korea’s economy that was affected. This may represent an adverse consequence of geographical names, due to South Korea’s borders positioned far beyond the Middle East.
Rift Valley Fever (RVF), a mosquito-borne disease that emerged from Africa’s Rift Valley, cost Somalia $471 million USD and Yemen $107 million USD during the 2007 outbreak. African livestock provided income for farmers and a governmental export tariff served as the country’s only revenue source. Saudi Arabia, a once major part of the buyers of livestock, ceased all imports due to a small outbreak, which devastated Somaliland and Nigeria. Communities contained the virus, while other areas experienced adverse impacts of the naming convention.
Though most people refer to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic as Swine Flu, creating its own set of consequences, select journalism outlets tilted the crisis “Mexican Flu”. Swine Flu, though not caused by pork products, lead to mass slaughters of pigs and a decrease in pork sale. Due to Jewish sensitivities to pork, Jewish communities renamed the virus “Mexican Flu”. This second title stigmatized Mexican Americans and Latino Americans.
Some geographically named diseases do not offer the same devastation as their namesake. Norovirus was named from a Norwalk, Ohio school in which children contracted the disease. Norovirus remains a common yet preventable threat, yet the State of Ohio experienced limited adverse impact; however, Japanese Noros (a popular surname) attempted to intervene to change the name and remove the negative stigma attached to their names. Coxsackie, New York residents reported the first group of Coxsackievirus, kin to the hand, foot, mouth diseases. Though one medical researcher was excited to see the hometown of the name of this great identity, the town does not mention it on its historical webpage.
Zika virus instilled fear among pregnant women, as the disease affects fetus development. Named after the city in Uganda, Zika virus impacts travel, not explicitly to the origin city rather to any South American country reporting the contagion. The nation of Uganda has not experienced a recent outbreak yet continues to be on WHO’s disease travel watch. Ugandan politicians seek removal from the list: the largest outbreak in Africa was reported from Gabon in 2007 with few experiencing long-term effects, whereas 1.5 million were infected in South America.
Similarly, the Ebola virus emerged from the Congo/Zaire state, yet fails to house significant cases. During the 2013 – 2014 epidemic, 99 % of the cases were outside DR Congo. New York, London, and Hong Kong were the Ebola virus disease hubs, whereas Congo suffered a decrease in tourism revenue.
The list goes on. Globally, we have experienced Japanese encephalitis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Marburg Fever, West Nile Virus, Lassa Fever, Ross River Fever, La Crosse Encephalitis, Legionnaire’s Disease, St. Louis Encephalitis, Bornholm Disease, Junin Virus, Malta fever, Bramble disease, and Nipah Virus, to name a few, yet this list is not exhaustive. Research suggests that illness names affect perception. Names evoke social meaning and moral judgments, which, influence actions toward the infected and disease origins.
WHO identified possible negative effects of illness names, subsequently creating naming guidelines in 2015. WHO recognized pathogen names “may influence trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare.” Thus, new disease names may specify what the disease does, possible general location of origin or place for contraction without damning the associated region, suggesting avoiding offending any “cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups”.
Despite a global understanding of the impact of naming conventions and WHO’s regulations, the American public battles COVID-19’s title. The official name novel coronavirus-2019 (aka COVID-19) indicates the strain of the virus and year of detection. However, we see Wuhan coronavirus, Chinese coronavirus, Chinese virus, and Wu-flu. Prior to the global pandemic, Chinese nationals referred to COVID-19 as the Wu-Flu, titling it after Wuhan, the geographic origin.
As the disease spread beyond China’s borders, citizens increased the use of the COVID-19 naming convention. The name provides an explanation and classification, removing a potential exposure “fault” and conceding the effects geographical names have on residents. One world leader continues to use an unofficial name when briefing his audience. Former President Donald Trump has referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus”, despite numerous and immediate contrary feedback. Trump publicly explained the appropriateness of the title, as China is COVID-19’s origin.
Politicians, journalists, and social researchers urge influential people to restrict the use of the “China virus” naming convention. Geographical naming conventions include potential biases and prejudice which likely extend beyond Chinese decedents, applying to any person appearing to have East Asian origins. Minorities report verbal and physical harassment due to geographic naming conventions for the pandemic.
As reported violence increased, Chinese-style restaurant businesses experienced a loss in revenue. Unaffiliated with China, Corona beer sales were affected in 2020, with 14 % of consumers stating they would not order the beverage in public and only 4 % stating they do not use the product because of the pandemic. The name correlation may impact consumer perceptions of Mexican beer, at least in public, as much as Chinese-style dining.
Phrases like “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” are common during the context of the pandemic. These terms, however, are loaded with anti-Asian sentiments that imply that all Asians are somehow responsible or directly related to the spread of COVID-19. Especially as hate speech and hate crimes against Asian people are now on the rise, the terminology that people use to describe the virus plays a significant role in framing the perception of Asian Americans and their role in the pandemic. Furthermore, usage of the terms “Wuhan virus”, “China virus”, and “Chinese virus” have been applied by researchers, journalists, and politicians. For many, this naming convention implies adverse racial and geographical connotations.
A recent study with the Georgia Institute of Technology resulted in a database of reported Asian hate and counter-hate speech consisting of more than 800,000 tweets containing hateful statements towards Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and more than 200,000 tweets containing tweets with counter-hate message framing. The study found that there was a larger volume of hate tweets compared to counter-hate tweets, and hatred towards AAPI was “contagious”, meaning that exposing groups and communities to hateful content proliferated hate within the respective groups. Furthermore, the study suggests that counter-hate was not contagious in the same way that hate was contagious. Generally, antisocial behavior, which the researchers defined as “hate speech, abuse, and trolling”, is socially contagious. As a result, hate spreading through social media most likely had a significant impact on the perceptions of the AAPI community.
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of COVID-19 nomenclature on consumer behavior. Names, such as branding and titles, could influence choice, and further research is suggested to understand how COVID-19’s various titles (Chinese virus, Wuhan virus, and Global pandemic) affect consumer decision making.
The online survey presented a bar scene featuring television sets broadcasting the Olympic games. This scenario asks participants to choose a preferred seat among various patrons, one with a mask and the remaining three wearing American, Chinese, or Mexican flags on their shirts.
This study was designed as an experimental quantitative study, comparing results from four independent studies, 26 surveys per study (104 total surveys), and a minimum of 50 participants per survey (n = 5,455). Included atop of the questionnaire was a picture of four people sitting on barstools with their backs facing the participant (figure 1), and each patron at the bar was separated by an empty barstool (a total of four occupied barstools and three unoccupied stools). Each patron was wearing various combinations of flags for the United States of America (USA), Mexico, and China, with the remaining patron wearing a mask. The participants were presented with the following scenario:
The date is Saturday, August 8th. The [global pandemic]Wuhan Virus(China Virus) COVID-19 is mostly over and social distancing is a thing of the past. You visit a bar to watch the Summer Olympic Games. There are three televisions. Each television is broadcasting the same event at the Olympic games. There are several people at the bar and some are representing their national team on their shirts.
All participants read the same scenario with the exception of the naming convention variable. Study #1’s independent variable was “Global Pandemic”, Study #2’s independent variable was “Wuhan Virus”, Study #3’s independent variable was “China Virus”, and Study #4’s independent variable was “COVID-19”. The survey questions were “Which seat do you prefer?”, “You have enough money for one additional beer. Do you buy a beer for yourself or the person next to you?” (response “yourself”, “person on left”, “person on right”, “I prefer to save my money”), Age (18 – 24, 25 – 34, 35 – 44, 45 – 54, 55 – 64, 65+), postal code, and ethnicity (Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; American Indian or Alaska Native; Hispanic or Latino; Black or African American; Asian or Asian American; White or Caucasian; another race).
COVID-19 naming conventions (Global Pandemic, Wuhan Virus, China Virus, and COVID-19) did not have a statistically significant effect on seat preference (figure 2) (F(3, 4708)= 0.405, p > .05). Additionally, the naming conventions did not affect the participant’s beer purchasing decision (for self, one wearing a flag, or save money; F(3, 4708)= 0.648, p > .05) (figures 3 and 4). The results indicated that participants (n = 5,455) were significantly more likely to choose a seat between a patron wearing the USA shirt and the masked patron than between two patrons wearing shirts that represented other nations. Furthermore, participants were more likely to purchase a beer for themselves (42 %), or save the money (35 %); whereas eight percent of participants choose to purchase a beer for another patron wearing a shirt representing the USA, four percent for the mask-wearing patron, and two percent for the patron wearing the Mexican flag shirt. This study suggests further information on the impact of nomenclature of the disease may have on consumer behavior.
The researchers conducted t-tests, ANOVAs, and descriptive statistics to identify correlations between the independent variables. The study did not find significant results to suggest a correlation between gender, age, annual household income, geographic location, or highest level of completed education (figure 5). Additionally, the study did not yield significant results beyond the likeability of a shirt similar to the participant’s self-reported nationality.
The geographic naming conventions contributed to an overall decrease in spending and a decrease in spending money when people of other nationalities were represented as potential beneficiaries of the monetary spending. A person who is more likely to spend money on a person who shares similar cultures could suggest an exclusive dedication to their respective culture or could suggest an attempt to avoid other cultures. Either decision process is often cited as a catalyst for biases and potential prejudice. Additionally, the results suggest there could be an adverse effect on travel and tourism as cited in previous studies. Since the design and data collection for this study, the COVID-19 naming convention has become the dominant naming convention when referring to the pandemic of 2020 – 2022.
The implication for brands is a consumer’s willingness to spend money with brands or people who represent a likeness to themselves. Although this behavior is well-documented in peer-reviewed literature, this study suggests that biased behavior may have a more significant impact on revenue generation when two people of different cultures are involved in the transaction. Additionally, the evidence suggests that biased consumer behavior is likely to occur within the United States regardless of gender, age, annual household income, geographic location (including political boundaries – traditional red or blue states), or highest level of completed education.
To mitigate biases, brands could select employees who represent a similar likeness to the consumer or client to create a likable experience that contributes to a positive outcome. Although this course of action is not a permanent solution and should only be applied as a temporary measure, brands could highlight the diversity of their teams as the tactic would suggest teams are diverse and represented by more than one culture. To reduce bias in decision-making, brands may need to embrace natural behavior during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.