RAPID: Influencing Young Adults’ Science Engagement and Learning with COVID-19 Media -- Knowledge Gap Study #3b – More Knowledge About Germs

Friday, August 20, 2021
Resource Type:
Research Case Study | Research | Research Products
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media
Adults | Museum/ISE Professionals
Health and medicine
KQED, Inc., Texas Tech University, Missouri State University

This collaborative research project between KQED, a public media organization serving the San Francisco Bay Area, Texas Tech University and Rockman et al conducted research to study how best to provide effective COVID-19 science news and social media content for young adult audiences.

To start the work, four “Knowledge Gap” studies – Twitter Misinformation, Mask Wearing Messaging, Germ Knowledge (A&B) and Conceptual Mapping – as well as social media testing were conducted to address our research question: How could COVID-19 coverage be designed to best inform, engage and educate millennials and younger audiences about the science of virus transmission and prevention?

Using our data collected from the first germ knowledge survey, we created two questionnaires related to germ knowledge: (1) a general understanding that some exposure to germs is normal and can even be a good thing (i.e., the germ knowledge questionnaire) and (2) the belief that germs have human characteristics such as sentience and agency (i.e., the germ anthropomorphism questionnaire). 

Key findings:

  • Having more knowledge about germs is related to having greater ordinary science intelligence scores. Anthropomorphizing germs is related to greater science curiosity scores, but lower ordinary science intelligence scores.
  • We find that younger audiences (Generation Z and Millennials) know less about germs than older audiences and are more likely to anthropomorphize them.
Funding Program: 
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Team Members

Sue Ellen McCannPrincipal Investigator
Sevda ErisSevda ErisCo-Principal Investigator
Asheley LandrumAsheley LandrumCo-Principal Investigator
Kelsi OpatKelsi OpatAuthor

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