Reductions in perceived COVID-19 threat amid UK’s mass public vaccination programme coincide with reductions in outgroup avoidance (but not prejudice)

Rose Meleady, Gordon Hodson

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Abstract

It has long been proposed that perceptions of threat contribute to greater outgroup negativity. Much of the existing evidence on the threat–prejudice association in the real world, however, is cross-sectional in nature. Such designs do not adequately capture individual-level changes in constructs, and how changes in constructs relate to changes in other theoretically relevant constructs. The current research exploited the unique opportunity afforded by the mass COVID-19 vaccination programme in the United Kingdom to explore whether reductions in pathogen threat coincide with reductions in outgroup prejudice and avoidance. A two-wave longitudinal study (N 1 = 912, N 2 = 738) measured British adult's perceptions of COVID-19 threat and anti-immigrant bias before and during mass vaccine rollout in the United Kingdom. Tests of latent change models demonstrated that perceived COVID-19 threat significantly declined as the vaccine programme progressed, as did measures of outgroup avoidance tendencies, but not prejudiced attitudes. Critically, change in threat was systematically correlated with change in outgroup avoidance: those with greater reductions in perceived COVID-19 threat were, on average, those with greater reductions in outgroup avoidance. Findings provide important and novel insights into the implications of disease protection strategies for intergroup relations during an actual pandemic context, as it unfolds over time.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Early online date31 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Prejudice
  • COVID-19
  • Threat
  • Pathogen avoidance
  • Behavioural immune system
  • Vaccination
  • pathogen avoidance
  • behavioural immune system
  • prejudice
  • threat
  • vaccination

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