Charting cognition: Mapping public understanding of COVID-19

Natasha A. Strydhorst, Asheley R. Landrum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic of the last 2 years (and counting) disrupted commerce, travel, workplaces, habits, and—of course—health, the world over. This study aimed to capture snapshots of the perceptions and misperceptions of COVID-19 among 27 participants from three US municipalities. These perspectives are analyzed through thematic analyses and concept maps. Such snapshots, particularly as viewed through the lens of narrative sense-making theory, capture a sample of cognitions at this unique moment in history: a little over 1 year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings suggest that the (mis)perceptions captured are predominantly conveyed via narratives of participants’ personal experiences, and that the themes of attitudes toward precautionary measures, uncertainty, and the muddied science communication environment are prevalent. These themes suggest several salient targets for future research and current science communication, such as a focus on basic explainers, vaccinations’ safety and effectiveness and the necessity of uncertainty in the practice of science.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • health communication
  • public understanding of science
  • science attitudes and perceptions
  • science communication
  • science journalism


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