Coronavirus – Psychological perspectives

Several psychologists are actively working on the response to Covid-19, and psychological theory / research is relevant in many ways… this page will serve as a growing resource collecting and linking to those contributions.

In this evolving online resource, we will link to contributions from those considering the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, and collect together links to coverage elsewhere. 

Click on the headlines to read the coverage.

Will we also attempt to update this page with current priorities for discussion, and suggestions for where psychology could be making a practical difference.

If you are working in this area or would like to write about research you consider of relevance, please email us on [email protected]

Please note, the British Psychological Society response – including guidelines for psychological professionals – is collated at


Written for us…

"We had to bring people together"
Ella Rhodes hearsr from British Psychological Society President David Murphy and others about co-ordinating the BPS and frontline response.

Don’t personalise, collectivise!
Stephen Reicher and John Drury
The two psychologies and Coronavirus
An updated and expanded consideration from Reicher and Drury, with Clifford Stott

Social psychology of the coronavirus: Will flies save us?
Olivier Klein on the role of 'nudge theory' in the UK government response.

Can we make jokes about coronavirus?
Sophie Scott on the time for humour in response to crisis.

‘All interventions must stand up to scientific scrutiny’
Ella Rhodes hears from Professor Brooke Rogers OBE 

The outbreak shows us the psychological makeup of our society
Dr Evangelos Ntontis Lecturer in Social Psychology (Canterbury Christ Church University)  

'Supported isolation is likely to be particularly stressful'
Our journalist Ella Rhodes spoke to Dr Holly Carter and Dr Dale Weston, Public Health England.

Keep calm, and listen to the experts
Chris Keyworth

The truth about panic
Stephen Reicher, John Drury and Clifford Stott on narratives around buying.

OK, Not-OK in times of pandemic
Giovanni Felice Pace takes an existential perspective.

Coronavirus and obsessive-type conditions
Craig Jackson is concerned for those who already have issues with handwashing.

Coping with life in isolation and confinement during the Covid-19 outbreak
Nathan Smith and Emma Barrett look to extreme environments for tips. See also their 'Support the workers' initiative, with many other experts in disaster response, crisis psychology and more.

'There is a balance between their fears and their sense of duty'
Ella Rhodes hears from Dr Julie Highfield about supporting intensive care units.

Mental health literature in the time of coronavirus
Jerome Carson and colleagues on 'first person' accounts.

How psychology researchers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
Matthew Warren for our Research Digest.

Informing and translating the evidence base
Susan Michie

It's (virtual) happy hour again
Emma Davies and James Morris on alcohol during isolation.

What does the pandemic mean for gender equality?
Terri Apter writes.

The virtue to survive
Nisha Pushpararajah with a personal perspective grounded in collectivism.

Keeping your sense of meaning during lockdown
Rhi Wilmott


Current 'hot topics' in terms of psychological theory, research and practice

We'll amend this occasionally to reflect what is being talked about…

Many psychologists are signing an open letter calling on the government to share their evidence for the concept of 'behavioural fatigue' around social distancing measures. In this article, and  explain the reasoning behind their letter. Plus more from Nick Chater in The Guardian.

As we move into the next phase of the response, the debate around the evidence over whether we will 'fatigue' perhaps becomes less relevant than evidence-based strategies to help ensure we don't. See Reicher, Drury and Stott for us on this.

There's also a lot of discussion on Twitter around whether the UK government strategy is being driven by psychology, or the 'nudge theory' approach encapsulated in the work of the Behavioural Insights Team, and whether there is a difference. Encompassing both of these areas is an emerging theme of openness, transparency and trust in the goverment. With that in mind, it is well worth taking a look at the published evidence of the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

In this thread, the BPS President David Murphy sketched out his initial thoughts on all the ways psychology and psychologists can contribute to coping. There are lots of great suggestions in the thread, and since posting this David has firmed up that sketch and formed the BPS COVID Coordinating Group. Vaughan Bell reminds us to engage with the existing evidence base, providing tips on how best to do this

As seems to be the way with most debates in psychology at the moment, discussion eventually turns to (in effect) what psychology is and should be, who gets a voice and what topics and policy areas are appropriate for psychological comment. In this piece, Stuart Ritchie urges people not to trust his fellow psychologists on coronavirus.


Get involved

What can psychology, psychologists – and The Psychologist – do to make a practical difference in such challenging times? 

In this Twitter thread, we're wondering whether our followers can come up with the top 10 evidence-based ways to maintain and even boost important social identities, even in a time of 'social distancing'. Add your suggestions!

We also think it's a good time to find "the psychologists' favourite TV comedies of all time"... 

We were also delighted by Dr Emma Norris' creative efforts with back issues of The Psychologist… perhaps others could take up the challenge and produce a 'found poem', a papier mache model, or an alternative to toilet paper…


Elsewhere… added in chronological order since the start of the outbreak

Susan Michie has been appointed to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behavioural Science to support the Cabinet Office Briefing Room. In this BMJ blog, she argues that behavioural science must be at the heart of the public health response.

Also, the Real World Behavioural Science podcast has Michie in conversation with Professor Jim McManus.

The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it, from Dr Samanthan Brooks and colleagues.

Daniel Jolley writes for the Conversation on how the spread of this new virus is proving to be a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theories. Jolley also contributes to this piece on why people are faking coronavirus stories, alongside Ken Rotenburg and Santosh Vijaykumar.

Epidemics expert Jonathan Quick talks about the likely contribution of 'vaccine hesitancy', and the problem that 'fake news' is generally free whereas reliable sources of information are behind paywalls.

The Independent considers how to curb anxieties over the virus.

Chris Cocking tweets about how media use of the term 'panic buying' becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, including this 2012 blog. See also 'Don't let coronavirus tip society into panic', featuring several psychologists. Also this on 'how you can calm down'.

Coronavirus - how to stop the anxiety spiralling out of control, by Jo Daniels (University of Bath).

What can scientists do in an emergency lockdown? A blog from Dorothy Bishop.

Why do men wash their hands less than women? Plus more toilet psychology.

A resource on talking to children about coronavirus.

The UN Inter-agency Standing Commitee (IASC) Reference Group for Mental Health & Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (MHPSS) has published guidance on managing the psychological impact of an epidemic.

Insights on social distancing, from the APA.

'Behavioural scientists' form new front in fight against coronavirus, with comment from the excellent health psychologist Susan Michie… there is a lot of talk in the media / on Twitter at the moment about the role of the UK Government Behavioural Insights Team, whether 'nudge theory' is driving strategy, and whether it is 'real' behavioural science. 

One of the very best explanations of the UK government strategy, and the assumptions and risks around it, is from psychologist Professor Ian Donald. Other important threads / tweeters to follow include Vaughan Bell and Tom ChiversThis thread from Stuart Ritchie contains very useful replies from Vaughan Bell on the published evidence for the idea that people would 'fatigue' during social isolation.

Dr Simone Schnall (University of Cambridge) with a new blog on 'Coronavirus - A view from behavioural science'.

Dr Chris Cocking with another blog on the social psychology – "we can get through this crisis if we work together".

Interview with Clinical Psychologist Dr Aiysha Malik about mental health during the crisis.

Dr Terri Apter on the volatility of psychological models in a pandemic.

Resources from the Carribean Alliance of National Psychological Associations.

'The ABCD of coronavirus anxiety', from Dr Emma Svanberg, plus other free resources. See also 'Let's talk about coronavirus: a practical toolkit for you and your family', from Chartered Psychologist Dr Martha Deiros Collado (who has also produced this guide for talking to teenagers).

Dr Tara Porter on pupils' mental health.

Opportunities for online and in-class discussion around the social psychology of coronavirus, from David Myers.

Approaching coronavirus with compassion, from Dr Angelica Attard.

Eating disorders and coronavirus.

The Psychology of Pandemics: psychologist Steven Taylor says "I told you so!"

How can CBT principles help us cope with anxiety about coronavirus? 12 min podcast with Dr Jo Daniels interviewed by Lucy Maddox.

The British Psychological Society is collating advice and guidelines, for example on remote therapydealing with school closures; and talking to children about the virus.

The Covid-19 Five-a-day: Daily practices drawn from the evidence base by Chartered Psychologist Dr Natius Oelofson.

response from the National Survivor User Network.

framework for athletes to cope, thrive and engage in personal growth during the crisis.

Why prison conditions can be a perfect storm for spreading the virus, by Anita Mehay, Jane Ogden and Rosie Meek.

Compassion: the essential orientation

Tim Anstiss, Jonathan Passmore and Paul Gilbert.


We bring you a collection of links to articles on the psychology of happiness.

How psychology researchers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Matthew Warren, editor of our Research Digest, investigates.

‘The magazine is you’

Our editor Dr Jon Sutton in conversation with Professor Catherine Loveday, Chair of the Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee.

The two psychologies and Coronavirus

Stephen Reicher, John Drury and Clifford Stott on views of the public driving policy.

‘Your brain is revealing the building blocks of everyday experience'

Ella Rhodes collates a series of contributions from those researching vision and perception.

April 2020

This month's issue, archive, digital editions and more: Your Psychologist, your way...