Ideologically-based contact avoidance during a pandemic: Blunt or selective distancing from “others”?

Gordon Hodson, Rose Meleady

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This project sought to understand when ideology is relevant (or not) to predicting contact avoidance of ‘others’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. Right-leaning ideologies (political conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation) were not expected to predict greater contact avoidance per se, but rather exhibit selective avoidance of outgroup (vs. ingroup) members. White British participated in one exploratory (Study 1 N = 364) and two pre-registered (Study 2 N = 431, Study 3 N = 700) studies. As expected, right-leaning ideologies were significantly stronger predictors of greater preferred personal distance and contact discomfort regarding foreign outgroups (vs. British ingroup) in Studies 1 and 3 (partially supported in Study 2). Ideology rarely predicted ingroup reactions. This Ideology × Target pattern was itself not moderated by the perceived COVID-19 threat. Pre-pandemic theorizing that heightened behavioural immune system responses are associated with heightened right-leaning ideologies appear insufficient for use in actual pandemic contexts, especially when highly politicized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-845
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date9 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Ideology
  • Covid-19
  • Contact-avoidance
  • Behavioural immune system
  • COVID-19
  • contact avoidance
  • behavioural immune system
  • ideology

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