Research article

The pathogen paradox: Evidence that perceived COVID-19 threat is associated with both pro- and anti-immigrant attitudes



The COVID-19 pandemic, as a global threat to humanity, is likely to instigate a variety of collective responses in the society. We examined, for the first time, whether the COVID-19 threat perception is related to attitudes towards Syrian refugees in Turkey, theorizing a dual pathway whereby pandemic-induced threat would relate to both pro- and anti-immigrant feelings. Drawing upon integrated threat theory and models of collective-threat regulation, we expected that pandemic threat would lead to more exclusionary outgroup attitudes through increased immigrant threat, whereas we argued that perceived COVID-19 threat would promote inclusionary attitudes through creating a common ingroup in the face of a global threat. Using online search volume data at the province level (Study 1, N = 81) and self-reporting measures at the individual level (Study 2, N = 294), we found that the COVID-19 threat was directly associated with more positive attitudes towards refugees (Study 1 and 2). Study 2 further revealed indirect positive (through a sense of common identity) and negative (through perceptions of immigrant threat) links between COVID-19 threat perception and outgroup attitudes. These results highlight the importance of integrating threat regulation and social identity perspectives when assessing the implications of pathogen-related threats.


COVID-19threatattitudespandemiccommon ingrouprefugees
  • Year: 2021
  • Volume: 34 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 11
  • DOI: 10.5334/irsp.469
  • Submitted on 9 Jul 2020
  • Accepted on 10 May 2021
  • Published on 11 Jun 2021
  • Peer Reviewed