UCSB researchers who have studied xenophobic reactions to disease outbreaks consider society’s response to COVID-19
In this interview with "The Current", Dr. David Sherman and Dr. Heejung Kim discuss their research on xenophobic reactions to disease outbreaks and consider society’s response to COVID-19:
The coronavirus pandemic, naturally, piqued Kim and Sherman’s interest. It seems that countries that are generally collectivistic or individualistic tend to have different responses to disease outbreaks.
“Social coordination is a way to cope,” Sherman said, “and an effective coping means. We’re seeing that in China’s response and in Korea’s response as well as in Taiwan and in Singapore — the massive social coordination, which may be associated with being in more of a collectivistic culture. So that was one thing that struck us.” China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are collectivist societies, the scholars noted, and one of the variables they studied after the Ebola outbreak was what they call “protection efficacy” — the feeling that one could protect oneself from the virus. What they found was that collectivism seemed to be associated with a great sense of protection efficacy.
“When we measure protection efficacy, we measure it at three levels,” Kim said. “One is personal sense of efficacy, and the other one community, how much they feel like community can protect themselves. The third level was how much you feel like a country can protect itself. “It seems like collectivistic people,” she continued, “especially in the face of a perceived risk, tend to have a higher sense of efficacy, meaning that my group will do something to protect me or my community. And those protective processes are coordinated and work together.”