Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



PLoS One (December 27, 2022) 17(12): e0267871

Editor: Cindy Prins, University of Florida, United States

All data files are available from the Zenodo database (doi:


Copyright 2022, the authors. Open access material

License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)


Can comics effectively convey scientific knowledge about COVID-19 to youth? What types and how many sources of information did youth have about COVID-19 during the pandemic? How are sources of information associated with accurate COVID-19 knowledge? To answer these questions, we surveyed youth in grades 5–9 in a Midwestern United States school district in the winter of 2020–2021. The online survey used measures of COVID-19 knowledge and sources, with an embedded experiment on COVID-19 relevant comics. Guided by an integrated science capital and just-in-time health and science information acquisition model, we also measured level of science capital, science identity, and utility of science for health and society. The school district protocol required parental consent for participation; 264 of ~15,000 youth participated. Youth were randomly assigned one of four comic conditions before receiving an online survey. Results indicate that, similar to knowledge gains in comic studies on other science topics, reading the comics was associated with 7 to 29% higher accuracy about COVID-19. We found that youth reported getting information about COVID-19 from between 0–6 sources including media, family, friends, school, and experts. The bivariate positive association of news versus other sources with accuracy of knowledge did not persist in the full model, yet the positive association of a higher number of sources and accuracy did persist in the multivariate models. The degree of valuing the utility of science for their health moderated the number of sources to accuracy association. Those with less value on science for health had a stronger positive association of number of sources and accuracy in COVID-19 knowledge. We conclude that during a pandemic, even with health and science information ubiquitous in the news media, increasing youth access to a variety of accurate sources of information about science and health can increase youth knowledge.