Fall 2020 Newsletter

COVID-19 Research Update

people on the subway with masks onHow intergroup contact and exposure predict anti-Asian prejudice in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic
Tara M. Mandalaywala, Gorana Gonzalez, Linda R. Tropp

Anecdotal reports suggest an uptick in anti-Asian prejudice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across White, United States citizens (N = 609), this study examined whether: (1) objective (reported cases or deaths) or perceived (participant’s estimates of the same) threat from COVID-19 predicted anti-Asian prejudice, and (2) whether intergroup contact or exposure affect prejudice even during periods of intense threat. Threat from the pandemic was associated with greater prejudice toward Asian (but not Black or White) people, a pattern most pronounced when perceived threat from the pandemic was assessed. Intergroup contact was associated with less behavioral prejudice, and intergroup exposure was associated with more affective prejudice, toward Asian people regardless of the actual or perceived threat from COVID-19. These results suggest that increased anti-Asian prejudice in the United States occurs in response to perceptions of threat and demonstrates that intergroup factors have similar effects during periods of heightened threat. Preprint available on PsyArXiv.

therapist meets with patientMental Health Outcomes in Ethnic Groups During COVID-19: The Mediating Effect of Perceived Discrimination and Interdependence
Eleni A. Kapoulea, Rebecca Ready

Mental health outcomes associated with the COVID-19 may be worse for ethnic minorities than European-Americans in the United States (U.S.) due to elevated incidents of racism and the emotional toll of physical distancing. Asian-Americans have experienced a rise in discriminatory incidents after it was established that COVID-19 originated from China. Although physical distancing reduces transmission rates of COVID-19, it may disrupt interpersonal relationships, which is more likely to have a negative impact on collectivistic groups, who value harmonious interdependency, versus individualistic groups who value independence. However, the influence of discrimination and levels of collectivism and individualism have not been examined in the context of COVID-19. To fill this gap in knowledge, the current study will determine if mental health outcomes differ by U.S. ethnic group (i.e., Asian-American, African-American, European-American, and Hispanic-American). We hypothesize that ethnic minorities will report poorer mental health compared to European-Americans. If so, we will determine whether perceived discrimination and cultural values (i.e., individualism versus collectivism) mediate associations between ethnic group status and mental health outcomes. Participants were U.S. adults who completed questionnaires on the Mechanical Turk platform in April and May 2020. Participant provided self-report data about mental health, perceived discrimination, and individualist and collectivist ideals. Results from the current study will educate clinicians on sociocultural issues relevant for patients from diverse backgrounds during COVID-19. 

donkey and elephant as political partiesPrejudice and Partisanship during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Deborah Wu, Adrian Rivera-Rodriguez, and Buju Dasgupta

From March to May 2020, a longitudinal survey was conducted on the COVID-19 pandemic focusing on two separate questions: 1) how negative emotions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic predicted prejudice towards Asians and 2) how political partisanship and trust in science impacted people’s adherence to health guidelines and whether they personally contracted the virus.

woman works at computerThe unforeseen effects of COVID19: The stress-buffering role of online social support depends on context
Madison Bracken, Allecia Reid

Abstract: Myriad studies show stress-buffering effects of social support on mental and physical health. Research on online social support has produced mixed results. In March, universities closed to slow the spread of COVID19, modifying the way students obtain social support. We hypothesized that online social support would be more likely to show a stress-buffering effect following school closures. An ongoing study spanned four weeks before (Pre-COVID; n = 55) and after (Post-COVID; n = 143) school closures. College students reported stress, offline and online social support, depressive symptoms, and health behavior. Pre- and Post-COVID participants were similar on most variables; those Post-COVID reported more stress. Offline social support evidenced a two-way, but not a three-way interaction on depression. Thus, the stress-buffering effect of offline support did not depend on COVID. However, there was a three-way interaction with online social support predicting depression; online support had a stress-buffering effect in the Post-COVID group only. There were no effects on health. Results suggest that online support may particularly benefit mental health when offline support is limited.
To be presented at the virtual Society for Personality and Social Psychology's Annual Convention in February of 2021.

outline of judgement scalesStrategic Science Communication in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Bernhard Leidner, Quinnehtukqut McLamore

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis threatening millions of lives, the economy, and national infrastructures, including healthcare, housing markets, and industrial supply chains. Health organizations, government, and local communities have introduced various measures to reduce the impact of the pandemic. In this global context, this project examines and compares people’s compliance with these measures over time, and across diverse cultural and governance contexts. Specifically, it focuses on how different value and belief systems influence (non-)compliance with containment measures as the pandemic unfolds. In doing so, the research enhances basic understanding of science/policy communications and their impact on public attitudes and behaviors. Ultimately, the project helps identify best science communication practices to inform and educate people about COVID-19 and similar crises. By integrating theories from social and cross-cultural psychology, this research explores the role of different value systems, including basic human values, social values, and cultural values, in public responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, across 21 countries over three cross-sectional time points ranging from May 2020 to July 2020. Read full abstract

Challenge and Threat Framings of COVID-19 Messaging and Downstream Consequences
Bernhard Leidner, Quinnehtukqut McLamore

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic threatens millions of lives, the economy, and core infrastructures worldwide. Within the U.S., federal and state governments have enacted policies to lessen these impacts by “flattening the curve.” At the individual level, many have adjusted their behaviors accordingly, some have not, being either unable or unwilling to comply with scientifically-informed recommendations and policies. Unfortunately, the pandemic has corresponded with surges in hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans and racialized abuse online toward Asians (Stop AAPI Hate, 2020). Here, I propose that different messages about COVID-19 may cause the stress of the pandemic to be appraised differently, resulting in such divergent outcomes. The proposed research will investigate how different message framings about the COVID-19 pandemic affect stress appraisals, and how these stress appraisals affect compliance with scientifically-informed preventative measures toward the COVID-19 pandemic, and dispositions toward Asians and Asian Americans.”

woman in maskA Multi-Level Analysis of Social and Behavioral Responses to COVID-19
Brian Lickel, Allecia Reid, Katherine Dixon-Gordon, and Ezra Markowitz (environmental conservation)

Funded by a RAPID award from the National Science Foundation, a team of UMass Amherst researchers will study the psychological and societal response to the coronavirus epidemic. During the next year, the researchers will periodically survey a sample of 4,000 U.S. residents, examining their emotions and behavior related the outbreak and to the public health guidelines and mandates put in place to combat the epidemic. The research is testing hypotheses on four broad topics: personal and social responsibility, norms and social influence, coping and emotion regulation, and impacts of the outbreak on social cohesion and conflict. Additionally, the study will explore how people’s circumstances change throughout the year, paying attention to factors such as the severity of the outbreak in a person’s locality and on how financial and health impacts on people’s households affects their emotions and behavior. By studying people’s responses during the outbreak, the study will contribute new insight into the effectiveness of governmental and non-governmental efforts to respond effectively to the outbreak as well as testing basic psychological processes during this unprecedented societal crisis. Read full abstract