Self-regulation of emotional responses to zika: Spiral of fear

James Price Dillard, Chun Yang, Ruobing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Fear of infectious disease can create a variety of problems not the least of which is fear itself. An important question is how individuals attempt to manage their fear. The appearance of Zika in the U.S. presented an opportunity to examine this issue in a consequential natural context. Beginning nine days after the W.H.O. declared Zika a world health crisis, two-waves of survey data were collected from women ages 18–35 who were living in the Southern U.S. (N = 561). Most respondents (71%) used one or more emotion regulation strategies and a plurality (41%) utilized multiple strategies. Fear of Zika showed no demonstrable effect on avoidance, reappraisal, or contesting and none of these three strategies were effective at down-regulating fear. Fear and suppression, however, showed a self-reinforcing cycle in which fear increased use of suppression and suppression increased intensity of the fear response. Although the observed associations were small, even modest effects can be consequential when cumulated over time or across large numbers of individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0199828
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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