Working through an “infodemic”: The impact of COVID-19 news consumption on employee uncertainty and work behaviors.

Seoin Yoon, Shawn T. McClean, Nitya Chawla, Ji Koung Kim, Joel Koopman, Christopher C. Rosen, John P. Trougakos, Julie M. McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations

Abstract

Uncertainty is a defining feature of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, because uncertainty is an aversive state, uncertainty reduction theory (URT) holds that employees try to manage it by obtaining information. To date, most evidence for the effectiveness of obtaining information to reduce uncertainty stems from research conducted in relatively stable contexts wherein employees can acquire consistent information. Yet, research on crises and news consumption provides reasons to believe that the potential for information to mitigate uncertainty as specified by URT may break down during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Integrating URT with research on crises and news consumption, we predict that consuming news information during crises—which tends to be distressing, constantly evolving, and inconsistent—will be positively related to uncertainty. This in turn may have negative implications for employee goal progress and creativity; two work outcomes that take on substantial significance in times of uncertainty and the pandemic. We further predict that death anxiety will moderate this relationship, such that the link between employees’ news consumption and uncertainty is stronger for those with lower levels of death anxiety, compared to those with higher levels. We test our theorizing via an experience-sampling study with 180 full-time employees, with results providing support for our conceptual model. Our study reveals important theoretical and practical implications regarding information consumption during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)501-517
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Volume106
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • covid-19
  • creativity
  • goal progress
  • news consumption
  • uncertainty reduction theory

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