Human Behavior in the Time of COVID-19: Learning from Psychological Science

A collective crisis heightens sensitivity to social interactions.

This is a situation that can have both positive and negative effects as a function of it being a collective crisis. On the positive side, there is a sense that we’re in it together, and we see many amazing examples of people supporting one another. On the negative side, we see some people respond to this with a sense that they need to “protect their own,” and it is “us versus them.” APS Fellow Bethany Teachman, University of Virginia, APS roundtable discussion

Many people are feeling both impulses at the same time. They’re obviously going to feel fear because of the uncertainty, the present threat, and the potential threats. And the social cues around people right now are going to raise their perception that we’re in danger. Then there’s the talk of the long-term impact to the economy too, and you have a real recipe for people to be anxious and frightened. APS Fellow Valerie Reyna, Cornell University, APS roundtable discussion

In ambiguous situations, people look for social cues from others. You say, “Well, if other people are doing it, maybe they know something about whether this is an acceptable risk.” APS Fellow Baruch Fischhoff, Carnegie Mellon University, quoted in The Atlantic


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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