What is it about?

For two weeks during May and June 2020, 176 individuals (Israeli young adults), who had participated in our lab studies 2-3 years ago, completed several questionnaires online regarding their mental reactions to COVID-19. These questionnaires included an assessment of their current mental well—being and the perceived closeness of their social network. Individuals who participated in this survey were under lockdown at the time and we were interested in examining: 1) the association between the perceived closeness of their social network and mental well-being during COVID and 2) the moderating effects of two interpersonal mechanisms: physiological synchrony measured years ago and emotional contagion measured during the lockdown on the above association. We discovered that individuals' sense of the closeness of their relationships was positively related to their well-being. Moreover, this effect was moderated by one’s physiological synchrony as was measured years ago or by their current tendency for emotional contagion. Specifically, individuals with higher emotional contagion scores or higher physiological synchrony also had higher well-being during COVID-19 lockdown if their interpersonal relationships were perceived as close. Conversely, their well-being was lower if they perceived their interpersonal closeness as weaker.

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Why is it important?

To our knowledge, this is one of the only studies to date, to prospectively assess if physiological synchrony – a potent and objective interpersonal physiological mechanism - moderates the relationship between the closeness of the social relationships an individual has and his/hers well-being during COVID. Moreover, we suggest an additional, more proximal, mental interpersonal mechanism – emotional contagion - that similarly moderates the association between perceived interpersonal closeness and well-being during COVID. We thus provide an integrative and and complex multimodal account of interpersonal moderators of the association between the strength of the social network and well-being in times of crisis. We hope to provide a highly relevant and unique integrative approach combining physiological, social, and psychological measures to the study of COVID-19 mental health. We stress the heterogeneity of people’s mental reactions to COVID and how their emotional and physiological background allows us to understand these variations. We believe these results have the potential to deepen our understanding of the complexities of responses to the current pandemic. We hope these results will inform optimal and novel ways of identifying populations vulnerable to COVID-related mental distress, and subsequently offer them early and more optimal interventions.

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This page is a summary of: I feel you: Prepandemic physiological synchrony and emotional contagion during COVID-19., Emotion, August 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/emo0001122.
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