Sign Evaluation and Compliance Under Mortality Salience Lessons from a Pandemic

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James J. Kellaris
Karen A. Machleit
Donald R. Gaffney


This article examines sign communication effectiveness in the context of COVID-19 pandemic-related signs that promote behavioral changes. A program of four experiments assessed the influence of mortality salience on responses to signs promoting frequent handwashing (Study 1), restricted shopping hours for vulnerable groups (Study 2), maintaining physical distance (Study 3), and mask wearing (Study 4). Findings support a conceptual model proposing a serial mediation process whereby mortality cues trigger a chain of events (feelings and thoughts) that ultimately shape evaluations of and intentions to comply with signs. Findings offer evidencebased guidelines for effective signage communication.

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