Resistance to contact tracing applications: The implementation process in a social context

Iris Anna Maria Verpaalen*, Rob W. Holland, Simone Ritter, Madelon van Hooff, Wolfgang Ebbers, Lotty ’t Hooft, Esther Metting, Laura Nynke van der Laan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The success of new technologies such as contact tracing mobile applications depends on large-scale end-user adoption. However, the implementation may encounter resistance, since the uncertainty surrounding novel technology may raise anxiety, and persuasion efforts to promote use can evoke reactance. Thereby, anxiety and reactance are two forms of resistance to new technology. Little is known about the role of resistance over the course of the innovation implementation process, in a social environment where technology functionality depends on adoption by others. Therefore, this four-wave longitudinal study followed adoption of the Dutch COVID-19 contact tracing app during four months (N = 1120), and explored the time dynamics and interplay of reactance to freedom threat, anxiety, and perceived social norms on app use. Mixed-effect analyses showed that anxiety and, subtly, reactance decreased with time; initial freedom threat predicted later reactance. App use related negatively to reactance and anxiety; and positively to positive social norms. Over time, the norm effect was mediated by lower reactance and anxiety. The results imply that resistance is pervasive, suggest that self-perceived app use norms may be key to overcoming resistance to new applications, and demonstrate that theories predicting innovation or technology acceptance benefit from studying predictors over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107299
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Contact tracing apps
  • Innovation diffusion
  • Psychological reactance
  • Technology acceptance
  • Technology anxiety


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