ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (9): 1087-1104.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.01087

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

“Psychological Typhoon Eye Effect” and “Ripple Effect”: Double perspective test of risk perception and anxiety characteristics of people in different COVID-19 severity regions

WEN Fangfang1, MA Shuhan1, YE Hanxue1, QI Yue2(), ZUO Bin1()   

  1. 1 School of Psychology, Center for Studies of Social Psychology, Central China Normal University, Key Laboratory of Adolescent Cyberpsychology and Behavior, Ministry of Education, Wuhan 430079, China
    2 CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2020-02-18 Published:2020-09-25 Online:2020-07-24
  • Contact: QI Yue,ZUO Bin;
  • Supported by:
    National Social Science Foundation Major Program(18ZDA331);Central China Normal University Basic Research Program(CCNU20A06059);Central China Normal University Basic Research Program(CCNU20A06103)


COVID-19 has greatly affected the psychological state of Chinese people. This study carried out a dynamic follow-up survey of the psychological state of Chinese people and their evaluation of Wuhan residents during the epidemic period since the day of Wuhan’s citywide lockdown. The purpose of this work was to explore differences in degree of concern, risk perception, and anxiety response among regions affected by COVID-19 to different degrees. Our findings have important practical value for future crisis emergency management.
This work included a large-scale survey covering 4833 Chinese residents, and it was conducted after Wuhan was closed. Its purpose was to assess whether COVID-19 had invoked the psychological typhoon eye effect of a disaster event. The survey involved two angles, the “actor” angle, in which participants evaluated their own psychological states, and the “bystander” angle, in which participants evaluated Wuhan citizens’ psychological states. We called these Study 1 and Study 2. Study 1 explored the psychological state of residents themselves and the results were consistent with the ripple effect to some extent within the epidemic period, which is the opposite pattern of the psychological typhoon eye. The residents who lived near the hardest-hit areas showed significantly higher risk perception and anxiety. Study 2 explored how people from different areas evaluated Wuhan residents’ psychological state. The results of Study 2 did show a replicated psychological typhoon eye effect in terms of anxiety, and the number of psychological workers and doctors residents needed. However, when it came to risk cognition, residents in low-risk areas rated Wuhan citizens’ risk cognition as significantly lower than people in high-risk areas did, which generally manifested as a ripple effect.
This study also showed a marginal zone effect and a psychological controllable threshold. The marginal zone effect means there was a phenomenon in which risk perception was lower in the middle zone or middle-risk area than at either end. The psychological controllable threshold is one of the sub-scales of risk cognition. That is, uncontrollability did not show the psychological typhoon eye effect in the bystander portion of our study.
This paper further expands and enriches the boundary conditions of the psychological typhoon eye effect of public risk events, provides more abundant and direct research evidence for the perception difference between actor and bystander angle in the study of psychological typhoon eye effect, and has important implications for a deeper understanding of the psychological evolution of public health emergencies and public crisis management.

Key words: COVID-19, Psychological Typhoon Eye Effect, Ripple Effect, risk perception, anxiety, marginal zone effect