A Serial Cross-Sectional Study Investigating Unrealistic Optimism, Risk Perception and Protective Behavior during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sabiqotul Husna, Denisa Apriliawati
(Submitted 23 September 2023)
(Published 30 April 2024)


Protective behavior is crucial and needed when crisis conditions occur, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study wanted to examine whether (1) unrealistic optimism is significantly correlated to risk perception; (2) risk perception significantly affects protective behavior (3) risk perception mediates the relationship between unrealistic optimism and protective behavior and (4) whether they (unrealistic optimism, risk perception, protective behavior) are sifted from early phase to middle phase of COVID-19 Pandemic in Indonesia context. This study used a cross-sectional quantitative method, involving 549 respondents (age mean 26.02) obtained through a nonprobability (accidental) sampling technique. The study was divided into two-time windows; study I during the early period of the COVID-19 pandemic and study II when the pandemic had been running for more than 1 year. The results confirmed there was a relationship between unrealistic optimism and protective behavior, risk perception and protective behavior, but risk perception does not mediate the relationship between unrealistic optimism and protective behavior. There was a shift in the level of unrealistic optimism, risk perception, and protective behavior over time, specifically between Study I and Study II. Respondents' unrealistic optimism in Study I was at a higher level compared to Study II. The risk perception of respondents has increased along with the longer duration of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the level of protective behavior of respondents has decreased along with the longer the pandemic lasts.


bias optimism, COVID-19 pandemic, protective behavior, risk perception, unrealistic optimism

Full Text: PDF

DOI: 10.22146/jpsi.89248


Aristovnik, A., Kerzic, D., Ravseij, D., Tomazevic, N, Umek, L. (2020). Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Life of Higher Education Students: A Global Perspective. Sustainability. Volume 12, Issues 20. 8438; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208438

Betsch, C. (2020). How Behavioural Science Data Helps Mitigate the COVID-19 Crisis. Nature Human Behavior, 4, 438 (2020).https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0866-1

Borschmann, R., Lines, K., & Cottrell, D. (2012). Sun protective behaviour, optimism bias, and the transtheoretical model of behaviour change. Australian Journal of Psychology, 64(4), 181-188. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-9536.2011.00049.x

Bottemanne, H., Morlaàs, O., Fossati, P., & Schmidt, L. (2020). Does the coronavirus epidemic take advantage of human optimism bias?. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2001.

Branstrom, R. & Brandberg, Y. (2010). Health Risk Perception, Optimistic Bias, and Personal Satisfaction. American Journal of Health Behavior. 34(2):197-205. https://doi.org/10.5993/AJHB.34.2.7

Branstrom,R., Kristjansson, S., Ullen, H. (2006). Risk Perception, Optimistic Bias, and Readiness to Change Sun Related Behavior. European Journal of Public Health, Vol. 16, No. 5, 492–497. DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/cki193

Brewer, N.T., Chapman, G.B., Gibbons, F.X., Gerrard, M., McCaul, K.D., Weinstein, N.D. (2007). Meta-analysis of the Relationship between Risk Perception and Health Behavior: the Example of Vaccination. Health Psychol (2):136-45. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.26.2.136

Chavarría, E., Diba, F., Marcus, M. E., Marthoenis, Reuter, A., Rogge, L., & Vollmer, S. (2021). Knowing versus doing: Protective health behaviour against COVID-19 in Aceh, Indonesia. The Journal of Development Studies, 57(8), 1245-1266. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2021.1898594

Cho, H., Lee, J. S., & Lee, S. (2013). Optimistic bias about H1N1 flu: Testing the links between risk communication, optimistic bias, and self-protection behavior. Health communication, 28(2), 146-158. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2012.664805

Clarke, V.A., Lovegrove, H., Williams, A., & Machperson, M. (2000). Unrealistic Optimism and the Health Belief Model. Journal of Behavioral Medicine 23, 367–376 https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005500917875

Clarke, V. A., Williams, T., & Arthey, S. (1997). Skin type and optimistic bias in relation to the sun protection and suntanning behaviors of young adults. Journal of behavioral medicine, 20, 207-222. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025586829179

Cucchiarini, V., Caravona, L., Macchi, L., Perlino, F.L., Viale, R. (2021). Behavioral Changes after the COVID-19 Lockdown in Italy. Frontiers in Psychology 10 March 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.617315

Djalante, R., Lassa, J., Setiamarga, D., Sudjatma, A., Indrawan, M., Haryanto, B., Mahfud, C., Sinapoy, M.S., Djalante, S., Rafliana, I., Gunawan, L.A., Surtiari, G.A.K.,Warsilah, H. (2020). Review & Analysis of Current Responses to COVID-19 in Indonesia: Period of January to March 2020. Progress in Disaster Science.Volume 6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pdisas.2020.100091

Drucia, E., Musso, F. & Ianole-Calin, R. (2020). Optimism Bias during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Empirical Evidence from Romania and Italy. Games, Vol 11 (39), https://doi.org/10.3390/g11030039

Dryhurst, S., Schneider, C.R., Kerr, J., Freeman, A.L.J., Recchia, G., Bles, A.M.V.D, Spiegelhalter, D., Linden, S.V.D. (2020). Risk Perceptions of COVID-19 Around the World. Journal of Risk Research 23:7-8, 994-1006. https://doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2020.1758193

Dryhurst, S., Schneider, C. R., Kerr, J., Freeman, A. L., Recchia, G., Van Der Bles, A. M., ... & Van Der Linden, S. (2022). Risk perceptions of COVID-19 around the world. In COVID-19 (pp. 162-174). Routledge.

Du, Z., Wang, L., Shan, S., Lam, D., Tsang, T. K., Xiao, J., ... & Cowling, B. J. (2022). Pandemic fatigue impedes mitigation of COVID-19 in Hong Kong. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(48), e2213313119.

Fife-Schaw, C. & Barnett, J. (2008). Measuring Optimism Bias. In Book Doing Social Psychology Research. The British Psychological Society and Blackwell Publishing Ltd, DOI:10.1002/9780470776278

Ferrer, R., Klein & W.M. (2015). Risk Perceptions and Health Behavior. Current Opinion in Psychology, Volume 5, page 85-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.012

Fragkaki, I., Maciejewski, D.F., Weijman, E.L., Feltes, J., Cima, M. (2021). Human responses to Covid-19: The role of optimism bias, perceived severity, and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 176, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2021.110781

Franzen, A., & Wöhner, F. (2021). Fatigue during the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence of social distancing adherence from a panel study of young adults in Switzerland. PloS one, 16(12), e0261276.

Hanushek, E.A., Woessmann, L. (2020). The Economics Impacts of Learning Losses. Retrived from hanushek.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/The Economic Impacts of Learning Losses_final_v1.pdf

Harris, D.M., Guten, S. (1979). Health protective behavior: an exploratory study. J Health Soc Behav. 1979; 20(1):17–29. pmid:438490

Harris, A.J.L & Hahn, U. (2011). Unrealistic Optimism about Future Life Events: A Cautionary Note. American Psychological Association, Psychological Review Vol 118, No 1, page 135-154 DOI: 10.1037/a0020997

Hevey, D., French, D.P., Marteau, T.M., Sutton, S. (2009). Assessing Unrealistic Optimism Impact of Different Approaches to Measuring Susceptibility to Diabetes. Journal of Health Psychology Vol 14(3) 372–377 DOI: 10.1177/1359105308101675

Husna, S. (2021). Denial Attitude and Behavior as a Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study. Humanitas: Indonesian Psychological Journal, 18 (2). pp. 153-163. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.26555/humanitas.v18i2.19173

ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Seventh edition. Updated estimates and analysis, (2021). Retrived from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dg reports/@dcomm/documents/ briefingnote/wcms_767028.pdf.

Irawan, M. Z., Belgiawan, P. F., Joewono, T. B., Bastarianto, F. F., Rizki, M., & Ilahi, A. (2021). Exploring activity-travel behavior changes during the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia. Transportation, 49, 529–553 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11116-021-10185-5

Jang, W.M., Kim, U-N., Jang, D.H., Jung, H., Cho, S., Eun, S.J. & Lee, J.Y. (2020). Influence of Trust on Two Different Risk Perceptions as an Affective and Cognitive Dimension during Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) Outbreak in South Korea: Serial CrossSectional surveys. BMJ Open, 10:e033026. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-033026

Janz, N.K., Becker, M.H. (1984). The Health Belief Model; a Decade Later. Health Educ Q, Volume 11 (1), page 1-47, doi: 10.1177/109019818401100101.

Kuper-Smith, B.J., Doppelhofer, L.M., Oganian, Y., Rosenblau, G., Korn, C.W. (2021). Risk perception and optimism during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Royal Society Open Science 8(11) https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.210904

Levine, T. R., Asada, K. J., & Carpenter, C. (2009). Sample sizes and effect sizes are negatively correlated in meta-analyses: Evidence and implications of a publication bias against nonsignificant findings. Communication Monographs, 76(3), 286-302.

Lunn, P.D., Belton, C.A., Lavin, C., McGowan, F.P., Timmons, S.,Robertson, D. (2020). Using Behavioural Science to Help Fight the Coronavirus: A Rapid, Narrative Review. Journal of Behavioral Public Administration. Vol 3(1), pp. 1-15. DOI: 10.30636/jbpa.31.147

Lüdecke, D., & Von Dem Knesebeck, O. (2020). Protective behavior in course of the COVID-19 outbreak—survey results from Germany. Frontiers in public health, 8, 572561.

Michie, S., West, R. (2021). Sustained Behavior Change is Key to Preventing and Tackling Future Pandemics. Nature Medicine. Volume 27. Pp 749-752. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-021-01345-2

Nanda, R.O., Lolita.L., Indayanti, W., Rusdiyanti, I., Nurjannah, Ikhsanudin, A., Mareti, S. (2021). COVID-19 Risk Perception among Indonesians in Early Stage of the Outbreak. International Journal of Public Health Science (IJPHS).Volume 10, No 2. pp. 249-257. SSN: 2252-8806, DOI: 10.11591/ijphs.v10i2.20678

Oljaca, M., Sadikovic, S., Branovacki, B., Pajic, D., Smederevac, S., Mitrovic, D. (2020). Unrealistic optimism and HEXACO traits as predictors of risk perception and compliance with COVID-19 preventive measures during the first wave of pandemic. Primenjena Psihologija, 13(4), 405–425. https://doi.org/10.19090/pp.20.4.405-425

Park, T., Ju, I., Ohs, J. E., & Hinsley, A. (2021). Optimistic bias and preventive behavioral engagement in the context of COVID-19. Research in social & administrative pharmacy : RSAP, 17(1), 1859–1866. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sapharm.2020.06.004

Petherick, A., Goldszmidt, R., Andrade, E. B., Furst, R., Hale, T., Pott, A., & Wood, A. (2021). A worldwide assessment of changes in adherence to COVID-19 protective behaviours and hypothesized pandemic fatigue. Nature Human Behaviour, 5(9), 1145-1160.

Prawira, B., Pratama, A. J., Bella, A., & Nuraini, S. (2022). The role of behavioural immune system and belief in COVID-19 misinformation on COVID-19 protective behaviours in Indonesia. Journal of Health Psychology, 27(12), 2729-2743.

Radcliffe, N.M & Klein, W.N.P. (2002). Dispositional, Unrealistic, and Comparative Optimism: Differential Relations with the Knowledge and Processing of Risk Information and Beliefs about Personal Risk. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Vol 28, Issue 6, https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167202289012

Rosenstock, M., Strecher, V.J., & Becker, M.H. (1988). Social Learning Theory and the Health Belief Model. Health Educ Q, Vol 15 (2), 175-83. doi: 10.1177/109019818801500203.

Savadori, L., & Lauriola, M. (2022). Risk perceptions and COVID-19 protective behaviors: A two-wave longitudinal study of epidemic and post-epidemic periods. Social Science & Medicine, 301, 114949.

Sheeran, P., Harris, P. R., & Epton, T. (2014). Does Heightening Risk Appraisals Change People's Intentions and Behavior? A Meta-Analysis of Experimental Studies. Psychological Bulletin. 140(2):511-43. DOI: 10.1037/a0033065

Shepperd, J. A., Klein, W. M., Waters, E. A., & Weinstein, N. D. (2013). Taking stock of unrealistic optimism. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(4), 395-411.

Shukla, S., Mishra, S.K., & Rai, H. (2021). Optimistic Bias, Risky Behavior, and Social Norms among Indian College Students during COVID-19. Personality and Individual Differences, Vol 183, 111076, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2021.111076

Tejamaya, M., Widanarko, B., Erwandi, D., Putri, A.A., Sunarno, S.D.A.M., Wirawan, I.M.A., Kurniawan, B., Thamrin, Y. (2021). Risk Perception of COVID-19 in Indonesia During the First Stage of the Pandemic. Frontiers in Public Health.Volume 9. 731459. DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.731459

The Impact of The Covid-19 Pandemic on Education Financing. (2020). Retrieved from https://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/734541589314089887/Covid-and-Ed-Finance-final.pdf

Trumbo, C.W., Peek, L., Meyer, M.A., Marlatt, H.L., Gruntfest, E., McNoldy, B.D., Schubert, W.H. (2016). A Cognitive-Affective Scale for Hurricane Risk Perception. Risk Analysis. Volume 36 Issue 12. https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.12575

Wang, C., Wang, Z., Wang, G., Lau, J.Y., Zhang, K., Li, W. (2021). COVID-19 in Early 2021: Current Status and Looking Forward. Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy 6(1) DOI: 10.1038/s41392-021-00527-1

Weinstein, N.D. (1986). Unrealistic Optimism about Susceptibility to Health Problems: Conclusions from a Community-Wide Sample. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Vol 10, No.5.0160-7715/87/1000-0481505.00/09, Plenum Publishing Corporation

Weinstein, N. D., & Lyon, J. E. (2010). Mindset, optimistic bias about personal risk and health‐protective behaviour. British Journal of Health Psychology, 4(4), 289-300. https://doi.org/10.1348/135910799168641

Weinstein, N.D., Marcus, S.E., & Moser, R.P. (2005). Smokers’ Unrealistic Optimism about Their Risk. Tobacco Control, 14, 55-59, doi: 10.1136/tc.2004.008375

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 11 March 2020. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020

Wise, T., Zbozinek, T., Michelini, G., Hagan, C.C., Mobbs, D. (2020). Changes in Risk Perception and Protective Behavior during the First Week of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States. Royal Society Open Science. Volume 7 Issue 9, https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.200742

Yanti, B., Mulyadi, E., Wahiduddin, Novika, R.G.H., Arina, Y.M.D., Martani., N.S.,Nawan. (2020). Community Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior towards Social Distancing Policy as a Means of Preventing Transmission of COVID-19 in Indonesia. Jurnal Administrasi Kesehatan Indonesia.Volume 8 No 1. Special Issue. Doi: 10.20473/jaki.v8i2.2020.4-14

Zickfeld, J. H., Schubert, T. W., Herting, A. K., Grahe, J., & Faasse, K. (2020). Correlates of health-protective behavior during the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Norway. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 564083.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2024 Jurnal Psikologi

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.