Dissonant Public Statements Erode Trust in Government During Pandemic


Photo courtesy of Donald Palmer.

Trust in institutions, business and government is critical during times of crisis and never more so than during a worldwide pandemic that brings with it panic buying and stock market collapse. Donald Palmer, professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, describes how dissonant messages from public leaders have further eroded trust in government. Palmer’s areas of research include the causes, processes and consequences of wrongdoing in and by organizations and the role of power and politics in corporate decision making.

“I think the the hoarding and the the panic buying is a product of a number of things, one of which is the fact that when you are not getting a message which you can trust about the situation, you are left to figure things out on your own. One way to figure things out on your own is to say, ‘I’m going to imagine the worst.’ Under that circumstance, you might overcompensate for the situation. Another thing that happens when you don’t get a consistent message is that it leads to confusion and confusion can lead to paralysis. So while there are some people who may be panic buying there may be other people who are just sitting home thinking, ‘I don’t know what to do.’” — Donald Palmer

Don't miss out on our newest articles, episodes and events!
Sign up for our newsletter

A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.