Campus

Gainesville

Publication date

12-15-2021

Publisher

Journal of Mind and Behavior

Book or Journal Information

https://umaine.edu/jmb/vol-42-number-3-and-4-summer-and-autumn-2021/

Keywords

COVID-19, religious affiliation, conservative political orientation, conspiratorial thinking, fake news, belief revision, cognitive style

Abstract

This paper reviews recent research on cognitive factors associated with the poor response to the COVID-19 health crisis in the United States. First, group-level predictors were explored, with studies revealing that religious affiliation and conservative political orientation were associated with a failure to comply with medical recommendations. In order to explain these links, individual-level traits were further investigated. Studies indicated that a tendency towards conspiratorial thinking and susceptibility to fake news along with cognitive style, particularly intuitive processing, were forms of motivated cognition related to disbelief in science and a reluctance to follow precautions of medical experts. Additionally, research revealed that cognitive ability has been shown to be related to the two group-level predictors, religious and political orientation, as well as belief revision, which in turn influences one’s ability to problem-solve in response to novel challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. Other aspects of cognitive ability such as neurological efficiency and working memory function were explored in regard to how they impact one’s ability to weigh evidence, process new information, and update one’s views. While none of these variables alone can fully explain the disregard and disbelief many American citizens displayed in response to the pandemic, taken together, the convergence of factors was likely to have influenced health outcomes across the nation, thereby contributing to the spread of the virus.

Author Biography

Joshua A. Cuevas is a professor and educational psychologist in the College of Education at the University of North Georgia, USA. His research interests include applied cognition, assessment, educational measurement, evidence-based reasoning, extremism, religious belief, and memory. Bryan L. Dawson is a professor in the Department of Psychological Science at the University of North Georgia, USA. Dr. Dawson’s research focuses on discrimination and the attitudinal and behavioral effects of positive and negative beliefs towards women, people of color, and LGBT people.

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A brief retrospective: Belief systems and psychological traits contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.

This paper reviews recent research on cognitive factors associated with the poor response to the COVID-19 health crisis in the United States. First, group-level predictors were explored, with studies revealing that religious affiliation and conservative political orientation were associated with a failure to comply with medical recommendations. In order to explain these links, individual-level traits were further investigated. Studies indicated that a tendency towards conspiratorial thinking and susceptibility to fake news along with cognitive style, particularly intuitive processing, were forms of motivated cognition related to disbelief in science and a reluctance to follow precautions of medical experts. Additionally, research revealed that cognitive ability has been shown to be related to the two group-level predictors, religious and political orientation, as well as belief revision, which in turn influences one’s ability to problem-solve in response to novel challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. Other aspects of cognitive ability such as neurological efficiency and working memory function were explored in regard to how they impact one’s ability to weigh evidence, process new information, and update one’s views. While none of these variables alone can fully explain the disregard and disbelief many American citizens displayed in response to the pandemic, taken together, the convergence of factors was likely to have influenced health outcomes across the nation, thereby contributing to the spread of the virus.