Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sneezing In Times Of A Flu Pandemic

Date:
November 9, 2009
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
The swine flu (H1N1) pandemic has received extensive media coverage this year. In times of heightened health concerns, everyday behaviors like sneezing can serve as a reminder to wash our hands or take our vitamins. But, what if we overreact to everyday sneezes and coughs and sniffles? Can these signals transform healthy discretion into an unreasonable fearfulness about germs and more?

The swine flu (H1N1) pandemic has received extensive media coverage this year. The World Health Organization, in addition to providing frequent updates about cases of infection and death tolls, recommends hyper vigilance in daily hygiene such as frequent hand washing or sneezing into the crook of our arms. News reports at all levels, from local school closures to airport screenings and global disease surveillance, continue to remind us of the high risk.

In times of heightened health concerns, everyday behaviors like sneezing can serve as a reminder to wash our hands or take our vitamins. But, what if we overreact to everyday sneezes and coughs and sniffles? Can these signals transform healthy discretion into an unreasonable fearfulness about germs and more?

New research, forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, from University of Michigan psychologists, Spike Lee and Norbert Schwarz, tested whether a heightened perception of risk for a flu pandemic might unconsciously trigger fears of other, totally unrelated hazards.

To test this, the researchers stationed an experimenter in a busy campus building and instructed her to sneeze loudly as students passed. The researchers then administered a survey to some of the students asking them to indicate their perceived risk of an "average American" contracting a serious disease, having a heart attack before age 50, or dying from a crime or accident.

The researchers found that those who had just witnessed someone sneezing perceived a greater chance of falling ill. They also indicated an increased fear of dying of a heart attack before age 50, dying in an accident or as a result of a crime. The researchers suggest that the public sneeze triggered a broad fear of all health threats, even ones that couldn't possibly be linked to germs.

The researchers then asked the same people their views on the country's existing health care system. Those within hearing distance of the sneezing actor had far more negative views of health care in America.

This finding was so striking that the psychologists ran another version of the sneezing scenario at a mall. This time, the interviewer himself sneezed and coughed while conducting a survey on federal budget priorities (i.e., should the government spend money on vaccine production or on green jobs?).

Participants were more likely to favor federal spending of $1.3 billion on the production of flu vaccines rather than the creation of green jobs when the experimenter sneezed. Thus, in times of a flu pandemic, "public sneezing has the power to shift policy preferences from other current priorities (i.e., green jobs) to the production of flu vaccines," says Schwarz.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sneezing in Times of a Flu Pandemic: Public Sneezing Increases Perception of Unrelated Risks and Shifts Preference for Federal Spending. Psychological Science, (in press)

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Sneezing In Times Of A Flu Pandemic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102121720.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2009, November 9). Sneezing In Times Of A Flu Pandemic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102121720.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Sneezing In Times Of A Flu Pandemic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091102121720.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins