Hiding the truth from public health: predictable but preventable behavior

It does not surprise me, run the Dre Kim Lavoie, professor in the Department of Psychology at UQAM and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Behavioral Medicine.

The fact of being tested positive when one should not have contact instantly arouses feelings of shame and guilt that directly influence self-image, according to the psychologist.

So, not telling the truth to the person down the line protects people from these negative feelings, believes the researcher.

The risk of having given COVID-19 to a loved one represents a further attack on this already abused self-image.

It is very confronting to admit that I did not do it right. Not only am I sick, but I may be responsible for infecting loved ones.

Kim Lavoie, Professor in the Department of Psychology at UQAM and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Behavioral Medicine

Quebec recorded 2,588 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers

Guilt, negative emotion par excellence

Shame and guilt are the strongest negative emotions. It’s the basis of our tendency to lie, adds the Dre The way.

It is therefore hardly surprising that a person tries to reduce this feeling in order to protect himself.

It’s an emotion that’s very strong, also believes the Dre Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, psychologist and associate professor at UQAM.

Basically, guilt allows us to fix what we have done. But it is difficult to live with and we can get tangled up. It can be difficult to confess a lie that has been told, especially if you realize that you have wronged others.

Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, psychologist and associate professor at UQAM

We come to touch our personal integrity, and that is very difficult to live with, adds the psychologist.

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Especially since people who did not respect the rules cannot mitigate this guilt by saying that they were not aware of the measures in place.

According to a study by the Dre Lavoie with 20,000 Canadians since the start of the pandemic, 95 to 98% of them say they are aware of the rules. It’s not that they don’t know […] that it is necessary to do the tracing of contacts, she specifies.

Needs versus guilt

Hiding the truth from public health is also the result of a contradiction between the desire to fill a need and a feeling of guilt, says Dr.re Beaulieu-Pelletier.

This contradiction is called cognitive dissonance.

We have basic psychological needs that have been frustrated for a long time. This is the case with the need for relationships. At some point, it becomes difficult to hold. We tell ourselves that we are going to make a small exception. Afterwards, we know very well that it is not coherent. We say to ourselves: ” I want to follow the instructions ”, but we realize that we did not follow them.

Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, psychologist and associate professor at UQAM

At a time of confinement and curfew, the needs for autonomy, freedom and relationships are abused for many.

No longer need [non comblé] is tall the more we tend to rationalize and lie

Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, psychologist and associate professor at UQAM
Two women wearing masks in an office.

Thousands of people trace the contacts of people infected with COVID-19.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Explain and avoid confronting

The two psychologists agree on ways to help people give accurate information to public health.

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One of them is to exonerate holdouts by using a conciliatory and informative tone.

We are not in retaliation and we must make it understood. In the tone we use or in the message we send, it must be clear […] so that we can focus on why we are asking these questions. The more we make it understood, the more it will help, believes the Dre Beaulieu-Pelletier.

It can also be difficult for someone to confront a public health worker by providing them with the contacts by text or phone.

The procedure needs to be changed a bit. Having someone on the line asking you to admit that you did the wrong thing increases the risk that [vous mentiez]. It puts people in difficult positions, believes the Dre The way

Setting up an anonymous online registry would prevent such a clash, she said.

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