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Asian Journal of Information and Communications 9(1)
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Asian Journal of Information and Communications

Public's online responses to a public health crisis: an empirical application of situational theory of publics and attribution theory in the case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in Korea Wonjun Chung

  • Page:37-54
  • 2017-04-26

By applying the two theoretical frameworks (situational theory of publics and attribution theory) to the case of the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak occurred in S. Korea, this study explores an interactive effect between the different types of publics and their attributive perception toward the MERS on the electronic word- of-mouth (eWOM) behaviors. For the purpose, this study employs a quantitative approach by using 326 participants in a 4 (publics: active, aware, aroused, or inactive) X 2 (attribution to the MERS crisis: responsibility or irresponsibility toward the government) factorial design. The results show that regardless of the crisis attribution, active public was more likely to participate in eWOM activities than any other public but the direction of the eWOM was directed in a negative way, while inactive public continued to be inactive. However, aware and aroused publics were significantly influenced by the way they attributed the crisis in terms of the crisis responsibility or irresponsibility toward the government.

Keywords: public health crisis, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), situational theory of publics, attribution theory, eWOM

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