Wear a Mask and Don’t Drink Bleach: The Role of Neurocognition and Health Literacy in COVID-19 Information Seeking Skills, Knowledge, Prevention Intentions, and Prevention Behaviors



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The rapid development of COVID-19 into a pandemic required people to quickly acquire, evaluate, and apply complex health-related information. The present study examined the possible interplay between neurocognition and health literacy in the early uptake and use of COVID-19 public information. The current study aims were to evaluate: 1) the contribution of neurocognition to COVID-19-related online information seeking skills, knowledge, prevention intentions, and prevention behaviors; and 2) the effects of health literacy on the relationship between neurocognition and these COVID-19 outcomes. Two hundred and seventeen adults completed a telephone-based assessment including standardized measures of neurocognition, health literacy, and COVID-19 health outcomes (i.e., COVID-19 online information seeking skills, knowledge, prevention intentions, and prevention behaviors). Multiple regression models with data-driven covariates revealed that neurocognition, specifically memory and executive functions domains, was independently associated with COVID-19 knowledge, but not COVID-19 online information seeking skills, prevention intentions, or prevention behaviors. A series of hierarchical multiple regressions with data-driven covariates showed that health literacy was independently associated with all measured COVID-19-related outcomes and did not interact with neurocognition for any of these outcomes. These findings suggest that the acquisition of COVID-19 knowledge in the early months of the pandemic was partially explained by individual differences in declarative verbal memory and executive functions. Thus, future studies might examine whether executive functions and memory supports (e.g., spaced retrieval practice) can improve COVID-19-related knowledge in vulnerable populations.



Neuropsychology, COVID-19, Health literacy


Portions of this document appear in: Babicz, M. A., Woods, S. P., Matchanova, A., Medina, L. D., Podell, K., Walker, R. L., ... & Avci, G. (2021). How did individual differences in neurocognition and health literacy influence the initial uptake and use of health-related information about COVID-19?. Journal of clinical and experimental neuropsychology, 43(5), 497-513.