In this introduction to the rapid response special section on the social psychology of the COVID-19 pandemic, we introduce twelve brief reports that, taken together, explain the psychological underpinnings of viral transmission, including public responses to COVID-19, (non)compliance with public health advice, and intra- and inter-community relations. The brief reports address these issues by applying multiple different theoretical and methodological tools from social psychology. In this introduction, we conceptually integrate the conclusions of these brief reports and summarise their key practical recommendations for stakeholders, and in doing so set out directions for future research into the social psychology of viral transmission, public health behaviour, and intergroup relations during and after pandemics. We conclude that if the medical and epidemiological response to this crisis is informed and mirrored by a rigorous social psychological response, then we may be able to move beyond the current situation united by our common humanity, be better prepared for future pandemics, and better placed to address the long-term inequalities that have been brought into sharp focus by COVID-19.
- viral transmission