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Social distancing and pro-sociality in times of acute sanitary crisis

The health crisis generated by the Covid-19 disease, which is rapidly spreading worldwide through direct human contact, has called for strict measures to limit contagion that drastically reduce social interactions. We study whether the imposed confinement, social isolation and the fear of contagion affect individuals’ pro-sociality, willingness to trust others and the perception of the social norm regarding the violation of the social distancing rule. We test two competing hypotheses. By requiring individuals to stay isolated and avoid others, social distancing rules might weaken cohesiveness in a community by feeding a sense of distrust and a need to take care of oneself. This might lead to more selfish preferences and less trust in others. At the same time, modern technologies and social networks allow people to keep in touch no matter how distant they are from each other. In addition, the imposed confinement may lead people to develop a feeling of common fate and cohesion, and a need for social interactions. This might mitigate (and possibly overcome) the negative effects of physical distancing, leaving unaltered or increasing the feeling of societal connectedness. As a result, we might observe stable or increased pro-sociality and more trust in others. All this might then have implications in terms of the perception of the social norm regarding the violation of the social distancing rule (more or less leniency toward the violators).

Lead investigator:

Fortuna Casoria


University of Lyon

Primary topic:

Attitudes, media & governance

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Status of data collection

In Progress

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Unit of real-time data collection


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