between friends or family, beware of false feelings of safety warnings from a study

Wedding, birthday, aperitif at home, barbecue, physical education class, new restaurants to try… All occasions are good to meet up with friends or family. But socializing unfortunately does not go hand in hand with the still circulating COVID-19, even if this type of gathering is no longer prohibited and wearing a mask in public spaces other than public transport is no longer mandatory. . If you think a lot less about the risks of contagion when it comes to your loved ones, even if it means throwing barrier gestures around them, you’re far from it, according to a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. the American Psychological Association, which warns against this habit.

It claims that people tend to feel less vulnerable and therefore take far less precautionary measures regarding COVID-19 when they are with their friends or even when they are only thinking about themselves rather than acquaintances or strangers. But beware of this false sense of security. “In these two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have become accustomed to spending time with their closest social circle, which can have unintended consequences. said the authors of the study, members of the Carlos III University in Madrid. “Friends and family can bring comfort, but it’s dangerous to think they protect you from contagion. This phenomenon has a name: “the friendly shield effect”.

Too blind trust in our loved ones?

However, the researchers recommend that the scientific community take this trend very seriously, as it could reinforce a false sense of security and contribute to future infections. The researchers conducted a series of online experiments with participants in the United States. The team divided 495 participants into two separate groups and asked them to write down some thoughts about a friend in the first case and an acquaintance in the second case. Participants were asked to read a paragraph advising that ‘junk food’, unlike sanitizer and masks, increases the risk of severe COVID-19 disease before being offered an online store for candy bars and Chocolate bars, chips or face masks, disinfectant wipes and hand gel were presented.

Also to discover: This is how you maintain and expand your circle of friends

Specifically, participants had to choose between a junk food product or a health protection product, and it turned out that those who wrote about a close friend were more likely to choose an unhealthy snack than a health protection product than those who wrote about a distant acquaintance . In fact, 27% of those who bought something after writing about a friend chose junk food, compared to 21% of those who wrote about an acquaintance. A second experiment involved dividing 262 participants with no history of COVID-19 infection into three groups. They were asked to imagine that they had contracted the disease from either a friend, acquaintance or stranger and were then asked how much they planned to spend on health protection products over the next two months.

“Anyone can have COVID-19, friend or stranger”

The results show that people who imagined contracting the disease from a friend would spend half as much on health protection items as those who imagined contracting the disease from a friend or stranger. The following experiment involved 109 participants who had previously been infected with COVID-19 and knew the origin of their contamination. However, those who contracted it from friends or family members were less likely to think they would be infected again than those who contracted it from acquaintances or strangers. Based on these findings, the researchers believe public health campaigns should warn of this tendency to adopt less protective behaviors when the risk of infection is associated with friends and family.

« We believe health security campaigns should redouble their efforts to educate the public about the Friend Shield effect and aim for a more holistic response to future pandemics, taking into account both physical infection rates and risk perceptions. they close. Asked about the issue by the Guardian, Professor Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews (who was not involved in the study) stressed that this research lends weight to a long body of research that had led to similar conclusions. And recalls that other studies have even shown that people not only trust their friends more, but also members of the same group, such as supporters of the same football team, even if they are strangers.

He also warns: There is no moral judgment related to infection. Anyone can have COVID-19, friend or foe, acquaintance or stranger. And paradoxically, the more we assume people like us don’t have the virus, the more likely we are to get it from them.. The question then arises: is it possible to take advantage of friends or family while reducing the risks? Yes, according to the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Regional Health Authority (ARS), who took care to publish a “checklist of advice for before, during and after the party”. This means, for example, distributing the seats, identifying everyone’s glasses (and remembering it!), multiplying the handwashing points and, at buffets, favoring skewers, appetizers, verrines on boards to share. And that without forgetting to do a big cleaning after the party, disinfecting surfaces such as door handles, toilets, armrests and washing the towels used at 60°.

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