Trust, experts and COVID-19 – the influence of psychology on our decisions

New research explores the relationship between trust in political and medical leaders and how individuals respond to healthcare advice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Picture of a medical professor lecturing a class

If citizens are to accept and follow the advice of medical and political leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that citizens trust in those leaders and trust what they are communicating. Funded by the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council, a new project will explore how varying trust levels have affected people’s responses to official guidance during the pandemic.

What is the issue?

If citizens trust in medical or political leaders, it makes it more likely that people will accept and follow the guidelines those leaders make to tackle COVID-19.

What will the research project do?

The research will look at the psychological processes that influence whether citizens trust leaders, and how those trust-based decisions in turn influence their behaviour, particularly as new events unfold. The project will also seek to understand citizen compliance with advice.

What will the impact be?

By gaining insights into how trust in leaders affects people’s individual responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and why citizens do or don’t comply with advice, the research will help to anticipate future psychological and health needs during and after the pandemic.

Lead researcher Professor Finian Buckley, Professor of Work & Organisational Psychology, Dublin City University Business School, says:  

“By understanding the factors that influence the perception of the trustworthiness of leaders’ (medical and political) communication regarding COVID restrictions or vaccine advice, future crisis management communication can be perfected to meet citizen needs.”

Lead Researcher: Professor Finian Buckley, Dublin City University