Psychological factors shaping public responses to COVID-19 digital contact tracing technologies in Germany

Anastasia Kozyreva, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Stephan Lewandowsky, Paul M. Garrett, Stefan M. Herzog, Thorsten Pachur, Ralph Hertwig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has seen one of the first large-scale uses of digital contact tracing to track a chain of infection and contain the spread of a virus. The new technology has posed challenges both for governments aiming at high and effective uptake and for citizens weighing its benefits (e.g., protecting others’ health) against the potential risks (e.g., loss of data privacy). Our cross-sectional survey with repeated measures across four samples in Germany (N= 4357) focused on psychological factors contributing to the public adoption of digital contact tracing. We found that public acceptance of privacy-encroaching measures (e.g., granting the government emergency access to people’s medical records or location tracking data) decreased over the course of the pandemic. Intentions to use contact tracing apps—hypothetical ones or the Corona-Warn-App launched in Germany in June 2020—were high. Users and non-users of the Corona-Warn-App differed in their assessment of its risks and benefits, in their knowledge of the underlying technology, and in their reasons to download or not to download the app. Trust in the app’s perceived security and belief in its effectiveness emerged as psychological factors playing a key role in its adoption. We incorporate our findings into a behavioral framework for digital contact tracing and provide policy recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18716
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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