Social Representations of the Coronavirus at the Beginning of the Pandemic in Russia

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Abstract


The coronavirus outbreak is a global event that has bypassed national borders and affected the entire world. Therefore, examining social representations of can reveal the problems that structure people’s experiences in a particular social context. To identify social representations of the coronavirus, the authors conducted a survey within the territory of the Sverdlovsk region. The survey covered the period from March 11 to May 11, 2020. The data were collected in two stages: at the first stage, there were 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in Russia, but no cases had yet been recorded in the Sverdlovsk region; at the second stage, the number of cases reached 1952 in the Sverdlovsk region and 221 344 throughout the country. The study used the word association tests, The Semantic Differential Scale (V.F. Petrenko), The Psychic Activation Assessment Methodology (L.A. Kurgan and T.A. Nemchin) and the questionnaire survey techniques. The findings showed that the significance of the coronavirus problem for the respondents varied in different periods of the pandemic. The core of the social representation is sustainable and coherent. It reflects the results of the media impact: death, panic. It also remains stable regardless of the time and involvement of the respondents in the pandemic. The potential alteration zone serves as a kind of ‘taming’ of knowledge about the coronavirus, the operationalization of the coronavirus perception content into the language of changes in a person’s everyday life - the coronavirus pandemic is understood as a ‘flu epidemic’ and the need for self-isolation is a ‘vacation’, an opportunity ‘to stay at home’. Observation of the immediate affective reaction of the respondents to the trigger ‘coronavirus’ uncovered the presence of emotional tension and the prevalence of negative experiences in them. The survey also showed that in the pandemic, being the main source of information and a means of communication, the media set trends for developing perceptions.


About the authors

Aleksandr I. Dontsov

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: a.dontsov@mail.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7432-3572
11 Mokhovaya St, bldg 9, Moscow, 125009, Russian Federation

D.Sc. in Psychology, Full Professor, is Professor at Social Psychology Department

Olga Yu. Zotova

Liberal Arts University - University for Humanities

Email: oiambusheva@mail.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5607-6317
24А Surikov St, Yekaterinburg, 620144, Russian Federation

D.Sc. in Psychology, Associate Professor, is Professor at Social Psychology Department

Lyudmila V. Tarasova

Liberal Arts University - University for Humanities

Email: tarasovagu@mail.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3390-0454
24А Surikov St, Yekaterinburg, 620144, Russian Federation

Ph.D. in Psychology, Associate Professor, is Associate Professor at General and Applied Psychology Department

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