Tell me what you are like and I will tell you what you believe in: Social representations of COVID-19 in the Americas, Europe and Asia

This study analyses the range and content of Social Representations (SSRRs) about the COVID-19 pandemic in 21 geographical zones from 17 countries of the Americas, Europe and Asia (N = 4430). Following the theoretical framework of Social Representations Theory, as well as psychosocial consequences of pandemics and crises, we evaluate the perceptions of severity and risks, the agreement with different SSRRs, and participants’ Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) and agreement with Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA). Different sets of beliefs as SSRRs are discussed and their prevalence and association with contextual variables (e.g., new contagions and deaths during data collection). Results show that severity and risk perceptions were associated with different SSRRs of the pandemics. In specific, to SSRRs focusing on Emerging Externalizing zoonotic and ecological factors, to Polemic Conspiracies, a view of Elite and Masses Villains, as well as Personal Responsibility in the pandemic. Further, these effects are replicated in most geographical areas. Additional meta-analyses and multi-level regressions show that Risk Perception was a consistent explanatory variable even after controlling demographics and ‘real risk’ (i.e., actual number of contagious and deaths), suggesting that, while coping and making sense of the pandemic, there is a shift to more authoritarian-alike responses.
Social representations, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Risk perception, Socio-Political orientations