1.0 Overview

The current controversy arising from false information regarding the Covid-19 pandemic has sparked debate on how the difference in access to information shapes people’s perception and response to dynamic critical events or situational environment. It provides the basis for understanding differences in the public’s (individual) perception and reaction to often similar events. In the United States (US), the public contends with a case of too much Covid-19 information overload -some are scientifically questionable (Silver, Devlin & Huang, 2020). On the other hand, people in China have escaped mainly the situation curtesy of government restrictions on independent, alternative, or unofficial Covid-19 information leading to a lack of information or information need (Meng et al., 2021). This study comparatively analyses literature on how Covid-19 information overload or a lack of information shapes people’s behavior from a specific United States (US) and Chinese perspective.

While access to information is considered essential to making informed choices, restriction of information, especially from dubious sources, is deemed crucial to preventing information overload by enhancing people’s capacity to process it. It makes the public less susceptible to false or misleading information, especially in emergencies, and enhances its ability to make the right choices (Kaimann & Tanneberg, 2021). Information overload arises when too much information overwhelms the recipient’s ability to process it due to its sheer volume, irrelevancies, misalignment with relevant discourse, limited processing time, and misalignment with the program’s strategic goals and vision.

Information overload can negatively impact people’s responses, especially the ability to make the right choices in emergencies. For instance, a recent study by Roetzel (2019) points out that access to too much information affects close to 91% of working people in the US. On the other hand, the lack of information or information need represents a group’s inability or desire to obtain or locate information that fulfills their conscious or unconscious needs. In the face of the different approaches to accessing Covid-19 related information in the US and China, the study assesses its impact on people’s behavior.

1.1 Problem Statement

(Video format)The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic period has been marked by varying public access and compliance with information meant to contain it. The Chinese response to the virus was characterized by restrictions on information that compromised the state’s ability to control the virus. Chinese authorities have banned: foreign media such as BBC and CNN and foreign online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, while state security agencies aggressively purge or censor local social networking sites, Weibo and WeChat, for user-generated content deemed false or contradictory to government position on the virus (Silver, Devlin & Huang, 2020). The restriction in the sources of information resulted in the public’s lacking access to independent or alternative information but minimized its exposure to Covid-19 mis/disinformation.

Unlike in China, the negative perception and reaction to Covid-19 vaccines and other pandemic containment measures in the US has mainly attributed to the inundation of the public with false or unscientific information. According to Kaimann & Tanneberg (2021), the right to access and impart information, the authority’s first reluctance to clamp down scientifically unsound information emanating from questionable sources, resulted in an environment of too much information in which mis/disinformation thrives. As a result, the US public is exposed to a wide array of Covid-19 information sources, often traffic conspiracies and other scientifically unproven information that overwhelms its ability to process it. This has given rise to anti-vaccine movements that hamper official efforts to contain the virus. Therefore, it is vital to evaluate how the two elements of information overload and (lack) information need have impacted public behavior in both the US and China.

​​​​​​​1.2 Related Work

The difference in the public response to the ongoing pandemic in US and China has been attributed to the vastly different approaches to managing the pandemic. The Chinese government embraced the Zero-Covid-19 approach, (How did it motivated ME)a centralized approach that often restricts access to a wide range of information sources except those that reinforce official government positions (Bavel et al., 2020). It requires the public to adhere to government-sanctioned containment measures strictly and involves large-scale mining of personal data to develop a mobile application used in aggressive contact tracing, testing, enforcing cessation movement and curfews, and actively censorship of information deemed scientifically questionable or a “threat to national security or/and public order” (Meng et al., 2021). Compared with other countries, the sole (government) narrative focus boosted the people’s capacity to process and adhere to Covid-19 containment measures, as reflected in the low infection and mortality rates.

The US, from the start, adopted an open and decentralized (State centered) approach, including unrestricted access to information that places high value on personal freedoms and fundamental rights. Critics note that free access to information concerning Covid-19 containment strategies in most democratic and open societies is a fatal flaw in containing the virus’s spread. This is manifested in varying levels to which individuals, groups, and even states comply with or adopt officially sanctioned covid-19 containment measures. It can be traced to the fact that the public in the US has a wide array of information from varied sources that can pose a challenge in the capacity to process it leading to varying differences and, at times, misinterpretation of the threat posed by the disease. Information overload (St Beth et all, pg.30, 2021.) has reflected in individual or the public’s marked resistance to federal and state-imposed masks, curfews or cessation of movement mandates, vaccine skepticism, Covid-19 conspiracies, and outright virus deniers.

1.3 Proposed Methodology 

The proposed methodology is qualitative comparative metanalysis and will involve evaluating and analyzing secondary information published across two countries and cultures. A metanalysis of relevant and peer-reviewed qualitative sources will be critical to identifying data on the exact behavioral responses to information overload as in the case of the US and information literacy (St Beth et al, pg.50,2021) as in the case of China. More specifically, information will be sourced from the official US and Chinese government publications, academic, media, and online sources on the impact of Covid-19 of information overload on public behavior in the US and China. According to Damrosch (2006), comparative literature research is particularly appropriate in discerning differences and common themes across national and cultural boundaries. Content analysis will be adopted in the analysis of the collected data. Behavioral data relating to Covid 19 vaccination uptake and adherence to containment measures, among other trends reflected in the US and China, will be classified, summarized, and tabulated through content analysis. This, as such, will foster the identification of behavioral patterns and themes based on the study variables. The application of content analysis will lead to contextual facts that will enable a comparative discussion on the behavioral responses in US and China caused by information overload and information literacy, respectively.  


Bavel, J. J. V., Baicker, K., Boggio, P. S., Capraro, V., Cichocka, A., Cikara, M., … & Willer, R. (2020). Using social and behavioral science to support the COVID-19 pandemic response. Nature human behavior, 4(5), 460-471.

Damrosch, D. (2006). Rebirth of a Discipline: The Global Origins of Comparative Studies. Comparative Critical Studies, 3(1-2), 99-112.

Kaimann, D., & Tanneberg, I. (2021). What containment strategy leads us through the pandemic crisis? An empirical analysis of the measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. Plos one, 16(6), e0253237.

Meng, F., Gong, W., Liang, J., Li, X., Zeng, Y., & Yang, L. (2021). Impact of different control policies for COVID-19 outbreak on the air transportation industry: A comparison between China, the US, and Singapore. PloS one, 16(3), e0248361.

Roetzel, P. G. (2019). Information overload in the information age: a literature review from business administration, business psychology, and related disciplines with a bibliometric approach and framework development. Business research, 12(2), 479-522.

Silver, L., Devlin, K., & Huang, C. (2020). Americans fault China for its role in the spread of COVID-19. Pew Research Center, 30.

Jean, S. B., Gorham, U., & Bonsignore, E. (2021). Understanding human information behavior: When, how, and why people interact with information. Rowman & Littlefield.