Social psychology and COVID-19: What the field can tell us about behavior in a pandemic

J Soc Psychol. 2021 Jul 4;161(4):403-407. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2021.1935830. Epub 2021 Jul 26.


The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in the lives of people around the world. Pandemics are powerful situations that can be examined from a social psychological lens. In this special section, four articles present data collected before and during the pandemic, providing a type of quasi-experimental design that helped examine the impact of the pandemic on social behavior. A number of findings emerged: the pandemic potentially increased instances of cyberbullying; the pandemic may have increased reports that Black-White intergroup interactions are more competitive and discriminatory; the pandemic may have reduced negative attitudes and bias in domestic versus international students in the U.S; and the pandemic may have allowed feelings of helplessness to provide a fear-reducing mechanism. We expand upon these findings by discussing how social psychology can help us understand and modify behaviors related to health and social relations during major threats like a pandemic.

Keywords: Behavior; Behavioral Change; COVID-19; Pandemic; Social Psychology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Pandemics
  • Psychology, Social / methods*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Behavior*
  • Students / psychology*