Covid deniers unswayed by shocking pictures of coronavirus consequences

People who think Covid-19 is a hoax or "no worse than the flu" are unlikely to change their mind when shown "shocking photos" of the pandemic, says Nathan Ballantyne an associate professor of philosophy at Fordham University. He wrote about his study in Scientific American.

in December 2020 we showed 510 participants several disturbing photos related to the pandemic—for example, of hospital workers lifting corpses in body bags onto a refrigerated semitrailer. We found that most people did not change their COVID-19 threat assessments after viewing the images. The exceptions were participants who already perceived the virus as a threat: some of them became even more convinced of its risks. For those who began our study doubting the virus's danger, the photos did little to change their opinion.

It's a problem of perspective. Psychologists have uncovered many kinds of "empathy gaps" in perspective-taking. In these gaps, there's distance between us and others' thoughts and feelings—especially our ideological opponents. Viewing disturbing images, we use the sadness or outrage we ourselves feel as a guide to understand how others will feel. The more something feels compelling to us, the more we believe others feel it's compelling, too. That's why we believe shock will force others to reconsider mistaken views.

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