06.04.2021 change 06.04.2021

University of Warsaw psychologists summarize 24 studies on COVID-19 pandemic

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How has belief in individual COVID-19 conspiracy theories changed during the pandemic? Who was more inclined to observe the restrictions? How does the approach to the pandemic differ in different age groups? Psychologists from the University of Warsaw have now presented their results in a joint publication 'COVID-19 pandemic in Poland. Psychological perspective’.

A year ago, scientists from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Warsaw formed 24 teams to research the psychological aspects and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Poland and abroad. 

One of the teams led by Dr. Tomasz Oleksy conducted research on conspiracy theories. The researchers investigated changes in popularity not only of theories that denied the role of the pandemic, but also those assuming that the government conceals information about the actual scale of the pandemic. Some conspiracy theories, the psychologists conclude, may therefore be associated with a decreased, and some with an increased motivation for protective activities, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

The researchers said: “The popularity of conspiracy theories means that it is extremely important to involve scientists, doctors, experts and politicians in the dissemination of reliable scientific knowledge about COVID-19. People responsible for the implementation of anti-Covid policy should pay special attention to the consistency of their actions and good communication with the public.”

Dr. Marcin Zajenkowski with his team investigated the personality traits related to compliance with restrictions. The research showed that those less amicable, as well as those with high levels of Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and competitive narcissism were less likely to follow the rules. However, personality traits were not as closely related to compliance as the perception of risk in the COVID-19 pandemic itself. This approach had a much greater impact on compliance with safety rules during the pandemic.

Professor Anna Szuster and colleagues studied the changes in emotions associated with the pandemic. The researchers found that: “On the one hand, unrealistic optimism helps to cope with the threat and improves well-being, on the other hand it also has negative effects. It favours risky behaviours. Seeing the pandemic world through +rose-colored glasses+ weakens vigilance, increases indulgence towards neglecting restrictions, questions the legitimacy of controlling one's own and other people's behaviour.”

Dr. Grażyna Kmita conducted research on the attitudes of parents and children towards the COVID-19 pandemic between May and December. The study said: “According to the parents, children experienced the greatest severity of anxiety at the beginning of the pandemic, and fathers in May and December. Mothers, while experiencing more symptoms of anxiety and depression than fathers, showed no difference in time.”

In turn, Dr. Małgorzata Gambin's research on depression and anxiety during the pandemic shows that at the beginning of the epidemic, people between the ages of 18 and 24 reacted with the highest level of depression and anxiety. This could be related to enormous changes in lifestyle and limitations related to satisfying one's own needs. On the other hand, at a later stage of the epidemic, in December 2020, people aged 35-44 experienced the highest intensity of depression symptoms. Dr. Gambin said: “It can be assumed that it was caused by anxiety, fatigue and overload of combined professional and parental responsibilities, as well as the feeling of anxiety about one's professional and financial situation.”

This document also includes summaries of research on how various social groups dealt with the pandemic: teenagers, people 60+, people in relationships, people on the autism spectrum, health care workers, national and ethnic minorities. Researchers also studied what the daily rhythm of the respondents looked like during the pandemic and checked the level of trust in applications designed to prevent the development of infections.

All reports (in Polish) are available at www.covid.psych.uw.edu.pl

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