Study claims people who are scared of Covid are more judgemental of others

People who are most afraid of catching Covid are more judgemental than those less scared of the virus, study finds

  • Study asked people to label actions like bribing on a scale of how wrong they are
  • Participants also completed survey on their concerns about Covid outbreak
  • Those judging others’ actions more harshly were more scared of getting virus

The people most worried about catching Covid judge other people’s behaviour more harshly, a study has claimed.

Cambridge University researchers claimed people were more likely to look down on others or react with disgust at questionable actions if they were afraid of Covid.

There wasn’t a clear link to the virus itself but people may be less forgiving if they felt their own health was at risk, the scientists said.

They added it meant people’s judgements of others’ behaviour was not totally rational but was tied to their own feelings.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge asked participants how worried they are about catching the coronavirus, which has killed over 3.7 million people worldwide (stock image of coronavirus)


Britain’s daily Covid cases spiked to 6,048 today in a 90 per cent jump on last Tuesday — the biggest rise since before Christmas, as fears continue to grow that the rapid spread of the Indian variant will cause No10 to delay England’s June 21 ‘Freedom Day’.

Positive tests surged from 3,165 last week as the infection curve keeps ticking upwards. 

The last time the UK recorded a bigger jump was on December 22, when cases had almost doubled to 36,000 from the same day the previous week.

Department of Health bosses also announced another 13 deaths from the virus, and said 126 Covid patients had been admitted to hospitals on June 2, the latest day figures are available for. This was flat from the same time the previous week. 

Separate figures showed Covid was behind less than one per cent of fatalities at the end of May, compared to 45 per cent during the peak of the second wave.

There were no fatalities from the virus recorded last Tuesday, but this was largely down to the bank holiday when fewer people were available to process paperwork to register a death. Case numbers can also fluctuate day-to-day.

Experts say jabs have broken the once impenetrable link between rising cases and hospitalisations and deaths. But ministers are waiting on further data to confirm that is the case against the Indian variant before pressing ahead with any final unlocking.

The Cambridge researchers questioned 900 participants in the US between March and May last year about their fear of catching Covid and their feelings on controversial situations.

Participants were asked to rate 60 hypothetical situations on a scale from ‘not at all wrong’ to ‘extremely wrong’. 

The scenarios included a man leaving his family business to work for a rival company, or a tenant bribing a landlord to skip the queue to get their flat painted.

People were also asked how they felt about a sports player ignoring a coach’s order or about someone marrying their first cousin. 

Individuals more worried about catching Covid viewed these situations as more wrong than those who were less worried about the spread of the virus. 

Professor Simone Schnall, a psychologist and the senior author of the report, said: ‘There is no rational reason to be more judgemental of others because you are worrying about getting sick during the pandemic.

‘These influences on judgements happen outside of our conscious awareness. 

‘If we feel that our wellbeing is threatened by the coronavirus, we are also likely to feel more threatened by other people’s wrong-doing – it’s an emotional link.’

The report was published today in the journal Evolutionary Psychology. 

The findings support earlier research which linked health threats with harsher moral judgment, and the idea that right and wrong are not based on rational thought alone. 

Robert Henderson, another author of the report and a PhD student, said experts think disgust is an emotion that evolved to protect people from harm.

‘Avoiding a filthy toilet that might contaminate us with disease, for example,’ he said.

‘But now we apply it to social situations too, and can feel physically repulsed by other people’s behaviour,’ Mr Henderson said.

‘The link between being concerned about Covid and moral condemnation is about risks to wellbeing.

‘If you’re more conscious of health risks, you’re also more conscious of social risks – people whose behaviour could inflict harm upon you,’ he added.

Other researchers have also examined people’s attitudes towards the virus. 

A study by researchers at the University of Nottingham earlier this year found that people’s adherence to Covid restrictions is more heavily influenced by what their friends and family do than their own principles.