Applying Social and Behavioral Insights

Couple wearing facemasks

Fear of Listening to Patients: Short-sighted on Long Covid

A psychiatrist’s recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal argues that long Covid is psychosomatic. Steve Lubet asks why the writer is dictating to patients rather than listening to them.

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Preparing to inject AstraZeneca vaccine

The Irrationality of Risk Calculations

David Canter considers how it is that people judge vaccination related risks so bizarrely.

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Social Scientists in the Time of COVID-19: The South African Experience

It is the role of the social sciences and the humanities, on the basis of evidence, to affirm where official policy is in the public interest, but also to point to where it is not.

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Video: Social Connectedness during COVID-19

Clinical psychologist Tegan Cruwys discusses the concept of social connectedness and how being ‘together apart’ is both possible and crucial during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Watch the Webinar: Connecting Research to Policy at the Nexus of Health and Education

In this hourlong webinar produced for the Federation of Associations of in Behavioral and Brains Sciences, or FABBS, Zewelanji “Zewe” […]

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World Anthropology Day: What Anthropology Can Teach Us During COVID-19?

With a virus running rampant across the world, the value of a global perspective becomes obvious: We must remember to observe the nuances of cultural and […]

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Aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing

The Comfort of Strangers

David Canter considers how disasters and tragedies can bring out the best in what it means to be human, and sometimes the worst.

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Video: Inequality During COVID-19

“COVID has put a magnifying glass on existing inequalities,” says Jolanda Jetten, a professor of social psychology at the University of Queensland, “and it’s clear that the degree of suffering is unfairly on the shoulders of the poorer groups in societies, and also the poorest countries in this world.”

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Video: Leadership During COVID-19

One of the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, argues social psychologist S. Alex Haslam, are many traditional views of leadership. […]

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Video: Two Psychologies of COVID-19

In this 44-minute video, Stephen Reicher addresses what he sees as the two psychologies of COVID, working through the lens of social identity theory.

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Anti-vaccination protest sign

Creating ‘Psychological Vaccine’ to Protect Against Fake COVID News

Our work in recent years has focused on how to prevent people from falling for misinformation in the first place, building on a framework from social psychology known as inoculation theory.

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NHS campaign material for app launch

Contact Tracing, Privacy, Magical Thinking – and Trust!

The saga of the UK’s contact tracing app(s) should be an object lesson in how not to approach the use of technology in public policy – and why politicians in particular need to step back and rethink their approach to technology, and in particular to privacy.

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Video: Improving the Response to COVID-19

When it comes to COVID-19, we’re all in it together. That statement, while obvious, is not always how people react. […]

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Video: Social Influence in the Age of COVID

Near what we now know to be the lengthy saga of the COVID-19 pandemic, four psychologists collaborating remotely put together […]

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Tear gas released at US Capitol

Harnessing the Power of a Mob

David Canter considers what the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington tells us about the power inherent in a crowd.

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MoVE Project: Pandemic Opened Door to Greater Volunteer Action

Understanding how to create the conditions for a thriving civil society — that works in partnership with local governments and […]

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Collage of COVID 19 in public spaces

Why Does Social Science Not Bite?

David Canter considers why the social sciences failed to influence behavior in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. The virologists had been preparing for a new virus for some years, so were already ahead of the game when they had to start creating a new vaccine. What preparations had social psychologists, sociologists or anthropologists for the inevitable emergence of a new pandemic?

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Road into city with 2021 in foreground

2020 Proved Value of Social Science to Wider World

If there is one thing that has become abundantly clear through this pandemic it is that a pandemic, like so many of the other really big and pressing issues facing us such as structural racism or climate change, are not problems to be faced by one discipline or sector alone.

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Watch the Lecture: Social Science and the Post-Truth Pandemic

In an engaging and highly topical presentation viewable below, Trish Greenhalgh, professor of Primary Care Health Sciences and Fellow of […]

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Two people, one wearing a mask

How the Psychology of Mask Wearing Can Encourage Mask Use

Past research has shown that psychological factors such as an individual’s perception of risk and tendency towards risky behavior influence adherence to health behaviors. This is now being seen in the current pandemic.

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DBASSE Event Focused on Social Science Responses to COVID’s Challenges

An online seminar hosted by the NAS’ Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education featured a series of presentations on what can we do to lessen, reverse and even thrive in the face of changes wrought by the pandemic.

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What Have We Learned from COVID-19?

This guide of freely accessible research compiled from SAGE’s Coronavirus Research collection provides insight on what COVID-19 has revealed these past months and how we can utilize these lessons moving forward.  

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The Coffin Cure: Why Vaccine Regulation Matters

Robert Dingwall cites a short story from 1957 which highlights why the development of a vaccine needs to always keep an eye on its safety, no matter what the pressures are for its immediate release.

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Panel: How Can Social Statistics Help Us Fight COVID-19?

This panel, “How Can Social Statistics Help Us Fight COVID-19,” organized by the Campaign for Social Science and SAGE Publishing and held on September 21, featured three speakers giving their perspectives on the role of timely, appropriately representative, and reliable social statistics in informing the COVID-19 response and recovery planning.

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Drive-through Covid testing in Korea

The Case For Democracy In The Covid 19 Pandemic

The author of a new book on the response to the coronavirus tries first to understand how apparently sane people could think it made sense to implement damaging policies, and secondly asks how the public might ensure that such a disastrous episode can never happen again.

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Seminar Links Social and Behavioral Insights on COVID with Policy

On October 9, a free online symposium will bring together social and behavioral science researchers in the United States whose work can inform public policies related to the pandemic with policymakers and public servants who are crafting and enacting legislation and other responses to COVID-19.

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Heidi Larson

Heidi Larson on Vaccine Skepticism

As the toll from the COVID-19 pandemic increased, polling suggests counter-intuitively that resistance to a future vaccine has also risen. Anthropologist Heidi J. Larson identified several likely drivers of this, including scientists themselves.

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COVID warnings in various media

Social Sciences SHAPE up to Benefit a Post-Pandemic World

COVID-19 has devastated communities and economies around the world and profoundly changed the ways in which we live and work. […]

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An Introduction to Intergroup Relations and COVID-19: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

Hopefully, one day soon we will live in a world where COVID-19 does not dominate every aspect of our lives. […]

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Common Identity, Humanity, and COVID-19: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

“Wearing a mask is a sign of respect.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, May 12th 2020 In the first chapter […]

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Prejudice, Discrimination, and COVID-19: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

For the people that are now out of work because of the important and necessary containment policies, for instance the […]

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Societal Polarization and COVID-19: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

This virus is dangerous. It exploits cracks between us. … Take as an example, ideology, or in one country it […]

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Inequality and COVID-19: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

Social distancing is a privilege. It means you live in a house large enough to practice it. Hand washing is […]

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National Academies Taps Social Science Expertise for Policy-Maker Use

While hopes for a medical answer to the current COVID-19 remain strong, the reality is that social, behavioral and economic […]

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AAPSS Seeks Papers on Mitigating Inequalities Spotlighted by COVID

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting nearly every area of household health, social, and economic well-being, individuals and communities across all […]

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An Introduction to Social (Dis)Connectedness: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

A disaster (which originally meant “ill-starred”, or “under a bad star”) changes the world and our view of it. Our […]

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Collective Trauma Amid COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

A traumatic event is one in which a person experiences a genuine fear of death or injury for themselves or […]

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Aging, Connectedness and COVID: An Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

In order to reduce the spread of the virus and to protect vulnerable persons, it is strongly advised to reduce […]

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Social Isolation Amid COVID: An Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

They had been sentenced, for an unknown crime, to an indeterminate period of punishment. (Camus, 1947) As Albert Camus observed […]

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Risk Perception Amid COVID: An Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

Patient A1.1, who was then still experiencing mild respiratory symptoms, attended a birthday party with nine other people. They hugged […]

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Group Threat and COVID: An Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

The biggest threat to the Territory is clear. It is not us, it’s them. Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan We live in […]

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Why Social Science? Because We Will Need to Do Better in the Next Crisis

Without research in social, organizational, and behavioral sciences, argues John Haaga, as serious as the investment in biomedical research, the United States may be no better off when the next acute crisis hits.

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A Simple Model Shows Value of Common COVID Defenses

The author’s team at the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research has developed a free, user-friendly computer model that demonstrates how infections and deaths progress on a daily basis over a three-month period depending on how people behave in response to the outbreak.

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An Introduction to Social Influence and COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

Efforts to influence people loom large in a pandemic. In particular, there is a demand for effective leadership which explains […]

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COVID and Conspiracy Theories: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

It is to get rid of non-productive Chinese in the Chinese community, who are non-productive and in the words of […]

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Behavior Change Amid COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

On March 11th 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement confirming that COVID-19 was a pandemic. WHO experts […]

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Compliance and Followership During COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

COVID-19 has posed a significant challenge, with whole nations striving to coordinate their activities in response to the pandemic. In […]

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Leadership and Identity in Combating COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

Since COVID-19 first began spreading around the world, there have been myriad examples of leadership that has not only motivated […]

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How Can Wise Graphics Use Cut Through the Complexity of COVID-19?

Editor’s Note: If you’re curious about the ways in which data visualization and graph use can generate impact with regard […]

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People Do Not Understand Logarithmic Graphs Used to Visualize COVID-19

Editor’s Note: If you’re curious about the ways in which data visualization and graph use can generate impact with regard […]

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Can Social Science Save Lives in a Pandemic?

David Canter considers the emerging social science perspectives for controlling COVID-19

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Anthropology Webinars Explore Fieldwork, Public Health, & Coronavirus

In light of the global coronavirus pandemic, anthropologists around the world have been preparing to utilize knowledge gained from past […]

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The Need for a Social Identity Analysis of COVID-19: Introduction to ‘Together Apart’

As we write, at the start of May 2020, 4 million people have been infected with the COVID-19, over a […]

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A Social Identity Analysis of COVID-19: Introduction to ‘Together Apart’

Plague was the concern of all of us…. Thus, for example, a feeling normally as individual as the ache of […]

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Collective Behavior in the Time of COVID-19

We are frequently told that COVID-19 is the greatest challenge of our generation, and perhaps the largest global crisis since World War II. So, what do we know about how people behave in crises? And how can we apply that understanding to manage the current pandemic?

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Social Order and Disorder in Time of COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

The way we are treated by the police tells us where we stand in society; if this treatment confirms the broader injustices to which our group has been subjected, then everything falls apart.

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Solidarity In the Midst of COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

Pandemics inspire the most remarkable acts of unity and compassion (Solnit, 2009). They also lead to appalling acts of division […]

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Crowds and COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

It is not surprising that in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, aside from infection fears, gatherings of people on beaches, public transport and in parks were met with concern and even alarm. Crowds are associated with trouble. But crowds can be both destructive and constructive forces.

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Managing Crowds in Crises: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

In an excerpt from Together Apart, three officials with Public Health England argue that he consequences of shared identity, which have been shown to be so important in building an effective community response to the pandemic — the mutual trust, influence and support — are equally important when it comes to community–authority relations.

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Looking at Emergencies and Disasters During COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’

While the pandemic is different other emergencies, there are important similarities: there is a mortal threat which can create fear; there is not enough protection for everyone under threat; and human action can mitigate (or exacerbate) that threat.

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How Behavioral Sciences Could Help More With COVID-19

Countries across the world have been turning to behavioral science in the fight against coronavirus. In May, The New Scientist proclaimed that ‘behavioral […]

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Addressing the Psychology of ‘Together Apart’: Free Book Download

Given the import of its subject matter, SAGE Publishing (the parent of Social Science Space) had agreed to make an e-book o the psychology of COVID-19 freely available.

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We Know Little About How Data Viz Affects Our COVID Perceptions

The language of data visualisation has become commonplace, and data visualisations are widely used to communicate about the pandemic to the public. However, as Helen Kennedy observes, their power to influence the public is still little understood.

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An Ethnographer on ‘Reopen’ Protests

The “anti-lockdown” and #Reopen protests in the U.S. have powerful and secretive backers, but there are real Americans on the […]

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Gyms, Bars, Cafes– We’ve Lost A Certain Intimacy In Society

Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic implies many painful losses. Among them are so-called “third places” – the restaurants, bars, […]

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New Orleans after levee break

Emergencies: Why Do We Leave It So Late?

David Canter considers the social psychological processes that turn emergencies into disasters.

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Second PIBBS cover

A Collection: Behavioral Science Insights on Addressing COVID’s Collateral Effects

To help in decisions surrounding the effects and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the the journal ‘Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences’ offers this collection of articles as a free resource.

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Hetan Shah on Social Science and the Pandemic

“You don’t have to go back many months,” says Hetan Shah, the chief executive of the British Academy, in this Social Science Bites podcast, “for a period when politicians were relatively dismissive of experts – and then suddenly we’ve seen a shift now to where they’ve moved very close to scientists. And generally that’s a very good thing.”

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Q&A About the Science versus Corona Initiative

Scientists at the University of Amsterdam started two platforms. Data versus Corona and Strategies versus Corona, as part of a larger initiative to unite experts from different disciplines to join together in the fight against the coronavirus.

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Student Perspectives on the Online Teaching Landscape

Under the threat of coronavirus, many universities took early initiative to empty their campuses and transition to online classroom spaces. […]

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British Academy Mobilizing Community to Address COVID Impacts

And so the British Academy has begun mobilizing its community of social scientists and humanities scholars to support the United Kingdom’s government and its populace as they fight the COVID pandemic today and deal with its impacts tomorrow.

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Infectious Diseases and Long-Run Innovation Consequences

Today we welcome two scholars from Texas’s Baylor University whose research into how pathogens affect innovation has taken on new prominence in the wake of the current pandemic.

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How COVID-19 is Changing the World: Views from Monash University

This article, first published in the Monash Lens at Monash University, gathers input from a cross-disciplinary group of social and behavioral scientists and members of the humanities faculty at the Australian university.

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How Researchers, Instructors, and Students Can Practice Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Social and behavioral research suggests many ways to calm your anxiety and practice well-being during this time of many unknowns. SAGE Publishing, the parent of Social Science Space, has opened various resources to support not only your own emotional health, but also the health of those around you, such as your children, students, and colleagues.

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Technological Considerations for Training Human Service Professionals in Light of COVID-19: Opportunity for Appropriation

The appropriate training of human service professionals in digital platforms — entailing retrospection, revisions, and appropriation of the curriculum and training frameworks with an emphasis on the integration of technology with practice — can ensure the quality of services to the clients during emergencies like COVID-19.

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Behavioral Science Proves its Worth in Tackling Viruses

The World Health Organization’s Outbreak Communications Planning Guide suggests behavior changes can reduce the spread or a viral disease by as much as 80 percent. This can mean the difference between healthcare sectors being overwhelmed or continuing to function.

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You Might Be Feeling Tired on Lockdown. Here’s Why.

A lot of people have been posting on social media saying they have been feeling tired earlier than usual while […]

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The 7 Deadly Sins of Coronavirus Thinking

The answer for the kind of panicked flurry in reasoning we’re seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic may lie in a field of critical thinking called vice epistemology. This theory argues our thinking habits and intellectual character traits cause poor reasoning.

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Why Call It ‘Social Distancing’? We Need Social Connection More Than Ever

Staying socially connected in times of threat has benefits beyond helping us manage our mental well-being. Other people can provide us with practical support, like picking up groceries or passing on relevant information, as well as emotional support. This feeling is called social solidarity, and if we get it right we’ll be much better equipped to respond to this and other crises.

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Simon Kneebone illustration

Evaluation Implications of the Coronavirus Emergency

Michael Quinn Patton, a giant in the field of evaluation, has been getting queries from colleagues young and old, novice evaluators and long-time practitioners, asking how he’s making sense of the global health emergency and what I think the implications may be for evaluation. Her’s his take on where we are and what it means.

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Behavior Changed, Yes, But Only After COVID Was At Doorstep

Research explains the relatively late behavioral reaction to the information of COVID-19 in Europe, writes Joan Costa-Font

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LSE Impact: Social Science in a Time of Social Distancing

Social science, argues Michael Taster of the LSE Impact blog, has an important role to play, by directly contributing to policy surrounding COVID-19 and its impacts, but also by acting as a critical friend, which raises the urgent question: how can this wealth of knowledge and expertise best be communicated?

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How to Stay Connected in a Time of Physical Distancing

Psychological scientists at the University of Washington’s Center for the Science of Social Connection draw from their clinical and research experiences help us understand the side effects of social distancing and suggest strategies for addressing them.

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Tips from Behavioral Science to Flatten the Curve on COVID Anxiety

Although feeling anxiety in response to a threat is a normal human reaction, sustained high anxiety can undermine constructive responses to the crisis. The following suggestions, based on psychological science, can help you deal with coronavirus anxiety.

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Links between myths and facts

Learn From COVID-19 Myths – Don’t Just Debunk Them

Instead of viewing rumors and myths as misperceptions that can be suppressed with accurate information, we should treat them as opportunities to understand — and respond to — the legitimate anxieties of the people who adopt and share them. In other words, we should look at them as valuable feedback that can help improve our own reporting and messaging.

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Jamil Zaki

We Should Talk About ‘Distant Socializing’ Instead of ‘Social Distancing’

The same technologies that people once blamed for tearing society apart might be our best chance of staying together during the COVID-19 outbreak, says Stanford’s Jamil Zaki.

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Why Are People Hoarding Toilet Paper?

The other day I went into Costco to buy some toilet paper. It came as a small shock when I […]

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Empty Grocery Shelves! Are Supply Chains Resilient Enough?

Toilet paper shortages, profiteering from hand sanitizer and empty shelves in grocery stores. Thanks to COVID-19, governments in most industrialized […]

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What the AIDS Response Can Teach Us for Addressing COVID

The ways in which epidemics interact with human society suggest that much can be learned from previous epidemics. Drawing on the historical response to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, Donald Nicolson describes four parallels between the responses to these outbreaks and suggests what lessons can be learned by public health authorities responding to COVID-19.

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empty classroom

Coronavirus UK – Why Closing Schools is (Generally) a Bad Idea

School closures are widely seen as a quick fix for COVID-19 transmission. The UK government’s resistance to this measure has provoked considerable concern, including a petition to Parliament that has gathered over a half-million signatures at the time of writing. In practice, argues Robert Dingwall, the effects would mainly be risky for children and the consequences would other institutions’ efforts to work as normally as possible.

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Breaking Bad News: How to Talk With the Misinformed

It’s also common to encounter people who are misinformed but don’t know it yet. It’s one thing to double-check your own information, but what’s the best way to talk to someone else about what they think is true – but which is not true?

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Twixt Duck and Rabbit: Psychological Biases and Bad Coronavirus Policy

Crises rarely see human decision-making operating at its best. Politicians and policymakers have to make important decisions in unfamiliar circumstances, with vast gaps in the available information, and all in the full glare of public scrutiny. The psychology of decision making doesn’t just tell us a lot about the potential pitfalls in our own thinking – it alerts us to ways in which some of the world’s governments may go astray.

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Coronavirus UK: Self-Isolation Must Not Mean Self-Imprisonment

The United Kingdom’s reputed the self-isolation proposal, and its attendant controversy about the alleged influence of social and behavioral scientists on the government’s approach, is a nice indicator of how limited the social science influence actually is – and why it needs to be greater.

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Don’t Tell Me ‘Don’t Panic …’

David Canter considers what panic really is and why its main cause is … telling people not to panic.

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How Coronavirus Became a Political Problem

The Italian government’s decision to expand its lockdown from two small areas of the north to encompass the entire country is a sign of its increasing desperation to control the spread of novel coronavirus. The number of positive cases by the evening of March 9 stood at at least 7,000 with more than 400 people having lost their lives. This has even been described as Italy’s “darkest hour” by Giuseppe Conte, the country’s prime minister.

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Coronavirus, Wuhan, and Social Science

As a social scientist in globalization studies, I am interested in the role some of the less visible layers of globalization — such as awareness of our connections with the lives of people elsewhere — have in shaping our responses, including emotional responses, to global threats, like this one and those to come…

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