CORONAVIRUS: psychological and cultural ERRORS of SOCIAL DISTANCE

If we had all been born under the same rules and the same language, perhaps it would be easier for us to agree on everything. Nevertheless our differences that are a wealth in terms of cultural diversity are also one of the important points that we have to evaluate when understand deconfinement and social and physical distance during the pandemic.

Around the world, our freedom of movement has been restricted on various levels in an attempt to slow the spread of covid-19. But some seem to have a harder time keeping their distance than others. Social psychology can help us understand why some of us don’t follow recommendations.

Nobody expected to start the new decade with a global pandemic. Governments have tackled the problem in various ways. Many countries have quarantined and ordered the population to stay at home, in some cases kept by the police. Other countries, such as Sweden, have opted out of mandatory quarantine and instead focused on recommendations on social distancing and hygiene, as well as in the confidence that the public will be able to work together to flatten the curve.

Although most people are now well aware of the dangers of the virus and how easily it spreads, you can see many examples of people not keeping a safe distance. This happens not only in the supermarket queue, but also when it comes to meeting friends and family, going to parties, or protesting in large groups.

pluralistic ignorance

It may be that everyone personally believes that individuals should practice social distancing – being two meters apart in public spaces – but as they do not see others exercising social distancingThey believe that others just don’t feel the same way. In other words, we can all agree that social distancing is the right thing to do, but since we don’t see anyone practicing it, we mistakenly believe that others disagree with us Y we ourselves become reluctant to say no.

Psychologists Dale Miller and Cathy McFarland described this social phenomenon as «pluralistic ignorance.»

People believe that others may have common beliefs and reject the way things are usually done in public. But because they feel too embarrassed to express their views, especially when they feel that others may not share those views, they don’t change their behavior.

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When it comes to Swedes, it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that people generally avoid conflicts and embarrassing situations, especially in publicso it’s not that we disagree that social distancing is important, but we can’t effectively coordinate our opinions on ways to regulate behavior, that is, we’re terrified of telling others they’re wrong.

the bystander effect

Similarly, it often becomes more difficult to do the right thing when others are passive. The «bystander effect» occurs when individuals witness a transgression or tragedy but do not act on instinct precisely because others are nearby.

Mark Conley explains the phenomenon:

– The bystander effect arises specifically because other people witness the same phenomenon at the same time.

If faced with the same situation alone, he would act as an individual. But since others are also witnessing the event and they could probably help too, this legitimizes that you yourself are not doing the right thing.

– And because other viewers they don’t actinstead they blame others for their bad behavior or assume that others are handling the situation in a way that they cannot see, something that helps them forget the fact that they themselves have done nothing yet and that there may be important consequences of their inaction.

motivated exceptionalism

The pluralistic ignorance and the bystander effect they assume that we objectively and correctly understand the threat posed by covid-19, but perhaps we are too optimistic.

The rapid spread and extensive consequences of the virus are worrying. In the end, this pandemic threatens almost everyoneand both our behavior and our judgment are not the same under normal circumstances as when we live with a threat.

We tend to have an image positive of our own abilitiesand specific threats to our very existence reinforce that image. Our objective understanding of information can be altered when we face significant threats.

Researchers believe that these positive perceptions actually can be good for our mental health because they create a psychologically safe haven that protects us from the tumultuous events that threaten to overtake us.

In addition, our psychological immune system can hide the risks of getting infected or transmitting covid-19, and we feel that we have some kind of superimmunity either endurance to the disease that helps us adapt to this specific threat.

This illusion of self-protection has been documented in cancer patients who believe that they can control their own cancer or that they have a better chance of surviving than the diagnosis suggests, although it is statistically unlikely.

– Such positive illusions can help short term to adapt to a threatening situation and protect our ego from the direct effect of the threat posed by the pandemic. Nevertheless, these illusions can also contribute to misbehavior associated with the spread of covid-19.

How can we improve our behavior?

Given psychology, what can and should we do?

1) Recognize our prejudices and illusions:
If we know how and when our behavior is likely to deviate from what is recommended, we can take steps to change it. It is about understanding our prejudices and illusionsunderstand when will affect our decision-making and take action to become more aware of how our behavior differs from what we should be doing.

2) Show personal value and be different:
Showing value is hard. Nevertheless, will be necessary if you are going to take action to change your behavioreven if others don’t. maybe it means shopping at times when others are not or moving when others get too close. You have no control over how others behave, but by acting yourself, you can change your own influence on others. In this way, you can indicate what you think should be done and perhaps help more people to follow your example.

3) Lean towards civil society:
Perhaps governments do not need to dictate what we should do as individuals, but rather remind us what we should do.

Activities at all levels, from municipalities to shops and public transport, can help us push in the right direction. This may mean limiting the number of people in a store or restaurant, or setting up visual reminders to keep your distance.

One example is Ireland, where municipalities have painted a two meter distance in parks as a reminder that pedestrians can easily keep a safe distance.

Because our minds are overwhelmed by all the worries this pandemic causes, we may simply need a little help to remember what we must do during these difficult times.

What are the countries that have more and less social distances?

If you like to be close to people when talking to others, you will love this Argentina. The South American country is full of «close talkers» – people who stand 0.76 meters (2.5 feet) away from strangers when they converse. If you prefer more personal space, go to Romania. There, residents like to stand 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) away from strangers.

This information about personal «bubbles» comes from a study of preferred interpersonal distances recently published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

While this topic of personal space in different countries has been examined before, the authors of this study used a much larger data set (nearly 9,000 people living in 42 countries) than used in previous studies. to the participants They were shown an image with two figures representing two people and a line with some marked distances between them. Subjects were asked how close the two figures should be together if they are strangers versus close friends versus colleagues (acquaintances). The subjects had to assume that they were one of the two figures.

The scientists found that residents of Argentina, Peru Y Bulgaria are closest to strangers, while those from Romania, Hungary Y Saudi Arabia they want the most space. The Americans were somewhere in the middle.

Social distancing vs. physical distancing

One of the most popular expressions these days is «social distancing«. The technical term is used to describe that people should keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from each other. But there is a difference between social distancing and physical distancing. In fact, They are two very different things.

Social distancing means that one is isolated from the society in which one livese, while physical distancing describes that one is spatially separate from other people.

One could argue that in our highly digitized world the focus should have been more on distancing physical that in the Social. As Stephen Frost of the Counseling Directory writes in his article The Difference Between Social Distancing and Physical Distancing: “In times of crisis and fear, we need the opposite of social distancing«.

He adds: «We need to feel that we are in this together, that people are not facing this alone. We need social inclusion, not distance. Call your elderly neighbor, send a message to your residents’ association or local community groups and offer to help, and if you can, consider what volunteering you can do for people who are most at risk.