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Open AccessArticle

Unrealistic Optimism in the Time of Coronavirus Pandemic: May It Help to Kill, If So—Whom: Disease or the Person?

1
Faculty of Psychology in Wroclaw, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, 53-238 Wroclaw, Poland
2
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Opole, 45-052 Opole, Poland
3
Department of Hypertension, WAM University Hospital, Lodz, Medical University, 93-338 Lodz, Poland; Polish Mothers Memorial Hospital Research Institute (PMMHRI), 93-338 Lodz, Poland
4
Faculty of Psychology in Warsaw, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, 03-815 Warsaw, Poland
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(5), 1464; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9051464
Received: 21 April 2020 / Revised: 7 May 2020 / Accepted: 11 May 2020 / Published: 13 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Infectious Diseases)
Objective: The results of numerous empirical studies have showed the occurrence of so-called unrealistic optimism. Thus, we aimed to investigate whether in the situation of an imminent coronavirus pandemic, people would still perceive themselves as being less exposed to the disease than others. Methods: Survey studies were conducted to examine the level of unrealistic optimism. Participants (n = 171, 67.3% of women) in a subjective way judged the risk of their coronavirus infection and the likelihood that this would happen to an average student of the same sex from their class. The survey was conducted in three waves: prior to the announcement of the first case of coronavirus (2–3 March), immediately after that announcement (5–6 March), and a few days later (9–10 March). Results: We showed that women estimated the chances of being infected as significantly higher (M = 4.52, SD = 2.079; t = 2.387; p = 0.018; Cohen’s d = 0.393) than men (M = 3.71, SD = 2.042). The phenomenon of unrealistic optimism was observed especially in men (as compared to other male participants) as it appeared in all three measures (M (you) = 3.95 vs. M (other male student) = 4.63; M = 3.71 vs. M = 4.68, and M = 4.46 vs. M = 5.38 in phase one, two, and three, respectively; p ≤ 0.006 for all comparison), but also in women in the last two measures (M (you) = 4.55 vs. M (other female student) = 4.95, and M = 4.99 vs. M = 5.38 in phase 2 and 3, respectively; p ≤ 0.012 for both comparisons). Conclusions: The study revealed a fairly general occurrence of unrealistic optimism, which was mainly observed in men as it appeared in all three measures, but also in women in the last two measures. This result is important for health experts who are responsible for making people comply with regulations concerning social distancing, putting masks on to stop infection, and staying at home. It is possible that unrealistically optimistic people will behave much less in line with the aforementioned recommendations, causing coronavirus to spread widely. View Full-Text
Keywords: unrealistic optimism; unrealistic pessimism; risk perception; healthy illusion; threat and fear unrealistic optimism; unrealistic pessimism; risk perception; healthy illusion; threat and fear
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Dolinski, D.; Dolinska, B.; Zmaczynska-Witek, B.; Banach, M.; Kulesza, W. Unrealistic Optimism in the Time of Coronavirus Pandemic: May It Help to Kill, If So—Whom: Disease or the Person? J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9, 1464.

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