Interpersonal space (IPS) is the area surrounding our own bodies in which we interact comfortably with other individuals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping larger IPS than usual, along with wearing a face mask, is one of the most effective measures to slow down the COVID-19 outbreak. Here, we explore the contribution of actual and perceived risk of contagion and anxiety levels in regulating our preferred social distance from other people during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. In this study, 1293 individuals from six Italian regions with different levels of actual risk of infection participated in an online survey assessing their perceived risk to be infected, level of anxiety and IPS. Two tasks were adopted as measures of interpersonal distance: the Interpersonal Visual Analogue Scale and a questionnaire evaluating interpersonal distance with and without face mask. The results showed that the IPS regulation was affected by how people subjectively perceived COVID-19 risk and the related level of anxiety, not by actual objective risk. This clarifies that the role of threat in prompting avoidant behaviors expressed in increased IPS does not merely reflect environmental events but rather how they are subjectively experienced and represented.

Social distance during the covid-19 pandemic reflects perceived rather than actual risk

Bosco A.;Lopez A.;Caffo A. O.;
2021

Abstract

Interpersonal space (IPS) is the area surrounding our own bodies in which we interact comfortably with other individuals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping larger IPS than usual, along with wearing a face mask, is one of the most effective measures to slow down the COVID-19 outbreak. Here, we explore the contribution of actual and perceived risk of contagion and anxiety levels in regulating our preferred social distance from other people during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. In this study, 1293 individuals from six Italian regions with different levels of actual risk of infection participated in an online survey assessing their perceived risk to be infected, level of anxiety and IPS. Two tasks were adopted as measures of interpersonal distance: the Interpersonal Visual Analogue Scale and a questionnaire evaluating interpersonal distance with and without face mask. The results showed that the IPS regulation was affected by how people subjectively perceived COVID-19 risk and the related level of anxiety, not by actual objective risk. This clarifies that the role of threat in prompting avoidant behaviors expressed in increased IPS does not merely reflect environmental events but rather how they are subjectively experienced and represented.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11586/371729
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