Does social empathy moderate fear-induced minority blaming during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Publication date: Apr 01, 2024

This study investigated the minority-blaming phenomenon in South Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic amplified fear, discrimination, and structural inequalities among minoritized groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study identified who was blamed for the spread of COVID-19 and the sociodemographic characteristics associated with this blame. Additionally, it examines the roles of individual and interpersonal fear and social empathy in minority blaming. We measured the fear of COVID-19 at both individual and interpersonal levels. Individual fear was assessed through personal health concerns, while the fear of transmitting the virus to others was measured as interpersonal fear. Social empathy was defined by macro perspective-taking, cognitive empathy, self-other awareness, and affective responses. The study was conducted through an online survey involving a quota sample of 1,500 South Korean participants aged 19-69 years, based on age, gender, and residential area. The response was collected in December 2020, when mass infections in specific communities received attention from mass and social media before the national spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Analytical strategies, including OLS and hierarchical regression models, were employed to examine the roles of socioeconomic factors, individual and interpersonal fear, and social empathy in minority blaming. This study found varying correlations between sociodemographic factors and attitudes toward ethnic, religious, sexual, economic, and age-minority groups. Individual fear of contracting COVID-19 was associated with increased blame across all minority groups. In contrast, interpersonal fear was associated with increased blame only for ethnic and religious minority groups. Similarly, social empathy presented mixed associations, as it displayed a buffering role on blaming ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities when considered alongside interpersonal fear, yet mildly intensified blame for economic and age minorities. These findings provide an understanding on fear-induced minority blaming during the pandemic and the potential role of social empathy in mitigating blame.

Concepts Keywords
December Blame
Korean COVID-19
Pandemic Fear
Therapy Minority
Social empathy


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease MESH infections

Original Article

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)