Can Optimism lead to more COVID-19 infections?

We tend to think of ourselves as being invulnerable. Even during a global pandemic, we are holding on to the belief that others can be victims of misfortune but not ourselves.

Even though research has shown that optimism is associated with subjective well-being, there is also a downside to expecting only good things for the future. We are susceptible to the so called “Optimism bias”, which causes us to believe that we are luckier and less likely to experience negative events than the average person. This unrealistic optimism can have a damaging impact in adopting preventive behaviors against diseases.

Are people’s beliefs affected by the optimism bias in the case of Covid-19? A study tried to find an answer to this exact question with the help of an online questionnaire that has been administered to an Italian and Romanian sample. The measurement showed that in both countries the respondents underestimated their likelihood to get infected with Covid-19 compared to the likelihood assigned to other people. These results confirm that an optimism bias exists in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, which inevitably can lead to less preventive behaviors and more infections.

However, in these times of uncertainty there still remains room for a healthy dose of cautious optimism to make these times less worrying. It is crucial to ask yourself: What are the costs and what are the benefits of taking action? Most importantly: What are the facts and not your bias?

Reference: Druică, E., Musso, F., & Ianole-Călin, R. (2020). Optimism bias during the Covid-19 pandemic: Empirical evidence from Romania and Italy. Games, 11(3), 39.

Written by Ilaria Romanelli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *