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National identity predicts public health support during a global pandemic
Changing collective behaviour and supporting non-pharmaceutical interventions is an important component in mitigating virus transmission during a pandemic. In a large international collaboration (Study 1, N = 49,968 across 67 countries), we investigated selfreported factors associated with public health behaviours (e.g., spatial distancing and stricter hygiene) and endorsed public policy interventions (e.g., closing bars and restaurants) during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (April-May 2020). Respondents who reported identifying more strongly with their nation consistently reported greater engagement in public health behaviours and support for public health policies. Results were similar for representative and non-representative national samples. Study 2 (N = 42 countries) conceptually replicated the central finding using aggregate indices of national identity (obtained using the World Values Survey) and a measure of actual behaviour change during the pandemic (obtained from Google mobility reports). Higher levels of national identification prior to the pandemic predicted lower mobility during the early stage of the pandemic (r = −0.40). We discuss the potential implications of links between national identity, leadership, and public health for managing COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Fear from Afar, Not So Risky After All. Distancing Moderates the Relationship Between Fear and Risk Taking
A growing line of research has shown that individuals can regulate emotional biases in risky judgment and decision-making processes through cognitive reappraisal. In the present study, we focus on a specific tactic of reappraisal known as distancing. Drawing on appraisal theories of emotion and the emotion regulation literature, we examine how distancing moderates the relationship between fear and risk taking and anger and risk taking. In three pre-registered studies (Ntotal = 1,483), participants completed various risky judgment and decision-making tasks. Replicating previous results, Study 1 revealed a negative relationship between fear and risk taking and a positive relationship between anger and risk taking at low levels of distancing. Study 2 replicated the interaction between fear and distancing but found no interaction between anger and distancing. Interestingly, at high levels of distancing, we observed a reversal of the relationship between fear and risk taking in both Study 1 and 2. Study 3 manipulated emotion and distancing by asking participants to reflect on current fear-related and anger-related stressors from an immersed or distanced perspective. Study 3 found no main effect of emotion nor any evidence of a moderating role of distancing. However, exploratory analysis revealed a main effect of distancing on optimistic risk estimation, which was mediated by a reduction in self-reported fear. Overall, the findings suggest that distancing can help regulate the influence of incidental fear on risk taking and risk estimation. We discuss implications and suggestions for future research.
Fear from Afar, Not So Risky After All Distancing Moderates the Relationship Between Fear and Risk Taking
An emerging and promising line of research has explored the role of emotion regulation in risky decision making (e.g., Heilman et al., 2010; Miu & Crisan, 2011; Panno et al., 2013), with a particular focus on the reappraisal strategy. However, reappraisal is a general strategy that encompasses various tactics. One such tactic is psychological distancing, which typically involves taking a distant perspective to see “the bigger picture”. Distance has been found to decrease emotional intensity (Van Boven et al., 2010), particularly the intensity of basic emotions such as fear and anger (Katzir & Eyal, 2013). In addition to its emotion regulatory benefits (e.g., White et al., 2019), psychological distance has been found to reduce probability weighting biases (Sun et al., 2018) and framing effects in risky decision problems (Raue et al., 2015). These effects are usually explained by a reduction in emotional intensity as distancing allows individuals to zoom out and transcend features of the here and now. The three studies presented here seek to contribute to this literature by examining how psychological distance moderates the influence of anger and fear on risk seeking. Three preregistered and well-powered studies (total N = 1,372; one correlational and two experimental) were conducted on mTurk using CloudResearch. mTurkers were able to participate if they had at least 95% approval rate, 500 HITs approved, and if they were currently residing in the US. Additional (preregistered) exclusion criteria were set for those who had completed the study (e.g., failed attention and bot checks, spent less than 2-3 minutes on the entire survey, indicated low English proficiency). The results indicated that the association between trait fear and risk aversion was reduced among individuals with high levels of habitual distancing (Study 1) and when participants imagined that the decision scenarios were temporally and physically distant (Study 2). Study 3 manipulated both emotions (anger vs. fear) and distancing (immersed vs distant). The results indicated that incidental distancing increased optimistic risk estimation.Taken together, these findings suggest that the impact of basic emotions like fear on risk can vary as a function of psychological distance. Such insight is of particular relevance to the field of judgment and decision making. Indeed, decision makers who engage in distancing might find themselves less influenced by incidental emotions. Additionally, decisions themselves may induce psychological distance when they involve temporally, physically, and socially distant targets. These findings also have important implications for organizations, especially now as leaders across the globe navigate the current pandemic.
Fear, anxiety, and construal level. Does anxiety broaden the scope of threat?
Fear is an emotion that has interested scholars and practitioners across different domains, such as psychology, economics, and politics. It has been widely studied in domains like decision making under risk and uncertainty (Wake et al., 2020), and underlies well-known phenomena like loss aversion (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979; Ruggeri et al., 2020). While antecedents and outcomes of fear have been extensively studied, the construct itself has not received much empirical investigation. This is surprising given that researchers have made important conceptual distinctions between fear and other related emotions like anxiety. In this paper, I draw on Construal Level Theory (CLT; Trope & Liberman, 2010) and the regulatory scope framework (Trope et al., 2021) to propose that fear and anxiety differ in their underlying level of construal and regulatory scope. Anxiety, unlike fear, constitutes a so-called “high-level construal” emotion because it broadens mental scope, directing attention towards more abstract and distant targets (Öhman, 2009; Trope & Liberman, 2010). The findings from this study may hold important implications for organizations, particularly those that frequently deal with crises. During the initial stages of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the virus was a distant and abstract threat to many countries. This distance may have reduced levels of fear that would otherwise have prompted earlier implementation of safety measures. Manipulating the construal level at which crisis scenarios are presented or processed can influence their effectiveness.