Does Pandemic Anxiety have Effects on Emotionality, Compliance with Government Actions, and Interpretation of the Pandemic?

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Maher M. Abu-Hilal, Jehad Alaedein, Faisal Abdelfattah, Adnan Atoum, Hamzeh Dodeen, Muna Al Bahrani


The aim of this study is to predict how anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic affects empathy, compliance with government actions, safety precautions, and precautions, and conspiracy beliefs, among adult Arab citizens. Responses were recruited electronically through a self-report online questionnaire designed electronically on the Jotform website during the period from April 25 to May 17, 2020. Respondents were 1302 (62% females) citizens from several Arab countries and Arab residents in some countries around the world with an age range between 22 and 60 years. Consistent with previous research, we found a positive association between anxiety and conspiracy thinking. The more anxious Arab males and females were the more they endorsed conspiracy theory. The results revealed a stronger association between anxiety and conspiracy thinking among males than females. Also, in line with previous research, adherence to official measures is negatively associated with conspiracy thinking, but only for males. Males who showed weak readiness to obey official measures (guidelines), believed more in conspiracy theory.

Pandemic anxiety generated stronger feelings of empathy toward others and more respect for safety precautions. Empathic responding, in turn, was a strong predictor of compliance to official measures whereas, anxiety was unrelated to compliance. The findings are useful in terms of providing evidence for designing interventions and implementing preventative approaches to mitigate the psychopathological consequences of COVID-19.

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