Overcoming Obstacles to Collective Action by Communicating Compassion in Science

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This chapter examines the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, explains why traditional approaches to science communication that rely almost entirely on analytical information are insufficient to motivate collective action. The coronavirus pandemic presented yet another collective action problem: the suppression of infectious disease provides a non-rival, non-excludable benefit for the global population. One of the biggest challenges in collective action problems is motivating individuals to act in ways that benefit people other than themselves. Strategies that motivate compassion- the concern for another’s undeserved suffering and the desire to minimize it-may be the most helpful in addressing collective action problems. Showing the adverse consequences that COVID-19 can inflict on the vulnerable others should facilitate the experience of compassion by way of their blamelessness and deservingness of assistance. In addition to compassion appeals and moral reframing, narratives offer yet another approach that could aid in the elicitation of compassion for the purpose of motivating collective action.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunicating Science in Times of Crisis
Subtitle of host publicationThe COVID-19 Pandemic
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781119751809
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley and Sons Inc.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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