What is the connection between stress, distrust, and non-compliance with public health measures? – A constructivist view of negative phenomena during the pandemic times

Miroslav Filip, Dominik Kovář, Michaela Jalůvková, Laura Jakalová, Nikola Kebrlová, Jakub Kocyan, Kamila Látalová, Angelika Poulová, Ivana Sochová, Kamila Uvírová, Patrik Brtinský


Non-adherence to public health measures determines how society copes with the new coronavirus pandemic. In this study, we apply the personal construct theory to answer why some people comply with anti-epidemic measures. The theory assumes that stressful events in the pandemic situation invalidate an individual’s wor­ldview (individual’s con­struing). If the individual attempts to maintain this construing instead of its reconstruction, s/he may apply the hostility strategy. For example, s/he dismisses information or opinions that are incompatible with his/her original construing. This leads to an elaboration of distrust and critical attitudes towards institutions and to non-compliance with measures they order. We investigate this model by an interview analysis with 20 respondents. The analysis yielded five categories showing how respondents construe the pandemic situation: responsibility, criticism, distance from the subject, productive dialogue, and unproductive dialogue. Respondents from the category “criticism” were facing substantial stressful/inva­lidating changes. They maintained their critical attitude towards anti-epidemic measures through a hostile view of those with differing opinions and a strong distrust in institutions and media. The other respondents mostly complied with the measures. In their construing of the pandemic situation, they took different perspectives into the account, did not experience hostility, and expressed some degree of understanding to people with different opinions. Thus, hostility could be a fundamental psychological principle to preserve a meaningful worldview in times of the pandemic. Hostility, however, leads to distrust, opinion polarization, and non-compliance with anti-epidemic measures.


(Fulltext in Czech)


COVID-19, stress, distrust, societal polarization, non-compliance, sociality, personal construct theory


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