Galina Gardiner

A Pandemic of Fear – the Psychology of Emotional Contagion

by Galina Gardiner “Quick – grab an extra loaf for the freezer – the shelves are bare!” Fear can cause us to behave illogically in response to perceived threats. It also spreads like wildfire. Whether through exaggeration or underestimation, disproportionate behaviour + spread = dramatic consequences. Impact of fear Fear of Coronavirus has led to extreme personal and governmental responses, from panic-buying and social distancing to school closures and lockdown. In Spring 2020, such measures appeared necessary. Their long-term effects – recession, neglected health, damage to education – were considered a price worth paying, though subsequent research indicates that the damage caused by lockdown may exceed that of COVID-19 itself (ONS, 2020; Chi et al, 2020). The impact of fear on society should not be underestimated – studies have shown it to be the biggest predictor of compliance with new measures, over and above moral or political leanings (Harper, Satchell, Fido, & Latzman, 2020).Understanding fear – how, and why, it rips through society – is vital if we are to react proportionately to global events such as COVID-19. What is fear? The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines fear as “a basic, intense emotion aroused by the detection of imminent threat, involving an immediate alarm reaction that mobilizes the organism” (2020). This ‘alarm reaction’ involves the amygdala – a collection of...

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December 2022
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