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Emotional and Behavioral Responses to COVID-19

Bacon, A.M., Krupic, D., Caki, N. & Corr, P. J. ORCID: 0000-0002-7618-0058 (2021). Emotional and Behavioral Responses to COVID-19. European Psychologist, 26(4), pp. 334-347. doi: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000461


This review appraises evidence for the role of personality in Covid-19 related emotions and behaviours. Three key models of personality are considered: the Five factor Model, HEXACO model and Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory. In line with personality research more generally, most studies focus on the Five-Factor model. Key findings are that neuroticism is most associated with poor mental health, and extraversion is associated with a reluctance to socially isolate. Conscientiousness predicts compliance with safety guidelines, but also with fewer prosocial behaviours, particularly stockpiling. Research within the HEXACO framework largely confirms these findings, especially for emotionality and mental health. The additional HEXACO Honesty-humility factor is found to be associated with prosocial views and abstention from panic buying. Studies based on the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of personality indicate the presence of emotional conflict as people wish to stay safe, whilst also maintaining a sense of normality. Behavioural compliance is driven by activation in the Fight-Flight-Freeze System (FFFS; fear-related) and the Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS; anxiety-related). The Behavioural Approach System (BAS) is implicated in approach-driven behaviours such as avoiding infection. These findings have implications for health communications and post-pandemic support.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This version of the article may not completely replicate the final authoritative version published in European Psychologist at It is not the version of record and is therefore not suitable for citation. Please do not copy or cite without the permission of the author(s).
Publisher Keywords: Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory; Five Factor model; HEXACO; Covid-19; mental health
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QR Microbiology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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