Title

Using Psychological Science to Support Social Distancing: Tradeoffs Between Affiliation and Disease-Avoidance Motivations

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2021

School

Psychology

Abstract

Humans are an intensely social species with a pervasive need for affiliation and social interaction. However, satisfying this fundamental motive comes with risk, including increased exposure to others' communicable pathogens. Consequently, disease mitigation strategies may require humans to downregulate their interest in socialization when pathogenic threat is elevated. Subsequent unsatisfactorily met affiliation needs can result in downregulation of disease avoidance goals in the service of social inclusion, albeit at the cost of putting individuals at greater risk for pathogen exposure. The current review summarizes past work in social and evolutionary psychology demonstrating affiliation and disease-avoidance motivation tradeoffs. We then apply this research by articulating strategies to support and maintain social distancing behaviors in the face of loneliness, which is of particular importance during pandemic outbreaks such as COVID-19. Finally, we propose novel and integrative research questions related to affiliation/pathogen-avoidance tradeoffs.

Publication Title

Social and Personality Psychology Compass

Volume

15

Issue

5

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