Unrealistic Optimism in the Time of Coronavirus Pandemic: May It Help to Kill, If So—Whom: Disease or the Person?

Dariusz Doliński , Dolińska Barbara , Barbara Zmaczynska-Witek , Maciej Banach , Wojciech Kulesza


Objective: The results of numerous empirical studies have showed the occurrence of so-called unrealistic optimism. Thus, we aimed to investigate whether in the situation of an imminent coronavirus pandemic, people would still perceive themselves as being less exposed to the disease than others. Methods: Survey studies were conducted to examine the level of unrealistic optimism. Participants (n = 171, 67.3% of women) in a subjective way judged the risk of their coronavirus infection and the likelihood that this would happen to an average student of the same sex from their class. The survey was conducted in three waves: prior to the announcement of the first case of coronavirus (2–3 March), immediately after that announcement (5–6 March), and a few days later (9–10 March). Results: We showed that women estimated the chances of being infected as significantly higher (M = 4.52, SD = 2.079; t = 2.387; p = 0.018; Cohen’s d = 0.393) than men (M = 3.71, SD = 2.042). The phenomenon of unrealistic optimism was observed especially in men (as compared to other male participants) as it appeared in all three measures (M (you) = 3.95 vs. M (other male student) = 4.63; M = 3.71 vs. M = 4.68, and M = 4.46 vs. M = 5.38 in phase one, two, and three, respectively; p 0.006 for all comparison), but also in women in the last two measures (M(you) = 4.55 vs. M (other female student) = 4.95, and M = 4.99 vs. M = 5.38 in phase 2 and 3, respectively; p 0.012 for both comparisons). Conclusions: The study revealed a fairly general occurrence of unrealistic optimism, which was mainly observed in men as it appeared in all three measures, but also in women in the last two measures. This result is important for health experts who are responsible for making people comply with regulations concerning social distancing, putting masks on to stop infection, and staying at home. It is possible that unrealistically optimistic people will behave much less in line with the aforementioned recommendations, causing coronavirus to spread widely.
Author Dariusz Doliński (Filia we Wrocławiu / Wydział Psychologii we Wrocławiu)
Dariusz Doliński,,
- Wydział Psychologii we Wrocławiu
, Dolińska Barbara
Dolińska Barbara,,
, Barbara Zmaczynska-Witek
Barbara Zmaczynska-Witek,,
, Maciej Banach
Maciej Banach,,
, Wojciech Kulesza (Wydział Psychologii w Warszawie)
Wojciech Kulesza,,
- Wydział Psychologii w Warszawie
Journal seriesJournal of Clinical Medicine, ISSN 2077-0383, (N/A 140 pkt)
Issue year2020
Publication size in sheets0.5
Article number1464
Keywords in Englishunrealistic optimism; unrealistic pessimism; risk perception; healthy illusion; threat and fear
Languageen angielski
Unrealistic_tekst.pdf 270.74 KB
Oswiadczenie_Dolinski.pdf 502.26 KB
Oswiadczenie_Kulesza.pdf 1.11 MB
Score (nominal)140
Score sourcejournalList
Publication indicators WoS Impact Factor: 2018 = 5.688 (2)
Citation count*18 (2021-02-22)
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* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.
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