Knowing that there is an epidemic, reducing human contact is the most effective way, but people have minimized social activities. The key to why the virus spreads so quickly may be that the risk awareness of relatives and friends is too low. A Spanish study found that people have a false sense of security in relatives and friends, thinking that those closest and safest may actually be at greatest risk.
Previous research has found that people tend to feel safe when they are in a close relationship with someone, which can lead to emotional rather than rational decisions. Confirming this intimacy paradox during the pandemic, researchers in consumer behavior and business psychology at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain, conducted five different online experiments with Americans during the pandemic. Each experiment pointed to the same result, that people may be less willing to take public health precautions to protect against COVID-19 when friends are present, or even just remembered. Even when they know that they may be infected by a friend, people’s risk awareness will suddenly decrease, and they think that the chance of reinfection from relatives and friends is less than that from strangers.
The researchers call this the friend shield effect, and the more conservative people are, the more distant they are. The study also found that people not only trust friends more, but also members of the same group, such as supporters of the same team, even strangers.
Limiting interaction with close friends and family is a common protective measure to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. “Anyone can be infected with the coronavirus, friend or foe, acquaintance or stranger, but paradoxically, the more we assume that people like us won’t infect us, the more likely we are to be infected by them,” the researchers said. infect.”
For most people, it may be thought that self-threat only comes from others, when the risk is associated with something positive like friends, the risk no longer seems to be threatening, so most people think that even when the epidemic is at its worst, going with friends is the most favorite. The number of coffee shops is also reasonable, which can explain why people have epidemic prevention awareness, but this self-awareness is not reliable, and it is difficult to rely on personal prevention for virus transmission.
“Friends and family can provide comfort, but it is unreasonable and dangerous to believe that they will protect you from COVID-19,” the researchers said. Worrying about the friend shield effect trend may exacerbate a false sense of security and lead to future contagion expansion. Some national public health guidelines encourage people to limit interactions to close circles of friends, but the researchers hope the study will provide evidence for future public health policy reminding people to be careful even with close friends. The research was published in the journal Experimental Psychology.