Public sneezing in times of flu pandemic triggers fear of unrelated hazards

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Washington, Nov 3 (ANI): A new American study suggests that sneezing in public in times of a flu pandemic creates a huge fear of health threats, including risks that cannot possibly be linked to germs.

The research conducted by Spike Lee and Norbert Schwarz, psychologists at the University of Michigan will appear in the latest issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Researchers asked a volunteer to sneeze loudly in a busy campus to find whether a high perception of the risk of a flu pandemic reflexively generated fears of other, totally unrelated hazards.

Thereafter, students were asked to point out their perceived risk of an "average American" developing a serious disease, having a heart attack before turning 50, or dying in an accident or as a crime victim.

It was found that those who had seen someone sneezing not only perceived they were more likely to fall ill but also had a higher fear of death due to heart attack before reaching 50 years of age or death due to crime or an accident.

Even those who heard the experimenter sneeze had a more negative view of the American healthcare system.

The psychologists repeated the experiment in a mall and this time the interviewer himself sneezed and coughed while asking people's opinion on whether the federal government should spend more on green jobs or vaccine production.

It was found that the interviewees were more likely to support federal expenditure 1.3 billion dollars flu vaccine production rather than the creation of green jobs whenever the experimenter sneezed.

Schwarz said that during flu pandemic, "public sneezing has the power to shift policy preferences from other current priorities i.e., green jobs) to the production of flu vaccines." (ANI)

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