Can information about pandemics increase negative attitudes toward foreign groups? A case of COVID-19 outbreak

Sorokowski P.,
Groyecka A.,
Kowal M.,
Sorokowska A.,
Białek M.,
Lebuda I.,
Dobrowolska M.,
Zdybek P.,
Karwowski M.
Document Type
Source Title
Sustainability (Switzerland)


Pathogen threat can translate into a willingness to distance oneself from others on a psychological level. Building on this notion, we predicted that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic can affect attitudes toward foreign nationalities. We explored the intergroup consequences of the current epidemiological situation in two studies involving a total of 652 participants. In correlational Study 1, we showed a positive relationship between media exposure in the United Kingdom (UK) and in Poland, and prejudice to four foreign nationalities. Study 2 showed that negative affect toward Italians (i.e., a nation struggling with the most severe COVID-19 outbreak at the time of the study) was indirectly predicted by exposure to news about coronavirus through the increase in anxiety, but this effect was not observed when a generalized measure of prejudice was considered. Overall, our studies revealed that prejudice and anxiety are sensitive to the current epidemiological situation, and our findings suggest that the outbreak of COVID-19 may translate into severe social consequences and increased psychological distancing to nations most affected by the pandemic. © 2020 by the authors.

Migration angle
Region/Country (by coverage)
Index Keywords

attitudinal survey; epidemic; epidemiology; population outbreak; psychology; public attitude; Poland [Central Europe]; United Kingdom; Coronavirus