Students’ Views on the Covid-19 pandemic: Attitudes, Representations, and Coping Mechanisms


  • Gabriela Monica Assante Assistant Professor, PhD, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iaşi, Romania
  • Octav Sorin Candel Assistant Professor, PhD, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iaşi, Romania



covid-19 pandemic, representations, fear, distrust, conspiracy


The new developments in our social context, the recent pandemic outbreak, caused a series of changes in everyday practices. The student population represents a particular case, both their safety and future education were under duress during this period. However, their views over the situation have not been present in the scientific literature. The present qualitative research aimed to explore students' perceptions, attitudes, views, and representations on the Covid-19 pandemic. Three focus groups, each containing twelve participants, were organised to explore these aspects and students’ particular experiences. Focus group sessions were audio-recorded and the transcripts were analysed. The results revealed four dimensions of the students' representations: change – as a constant of the present, prospective scenarios, the pulse of the moment, and surrounding risks. The limitations and the importance of the study are discussed. The consequences of these representations are particularly important due to the influence they can have on people’s practices during the crisis and the extent of measures’ acceptance. The results offer precious insights on why some communication strategies used by the authorities had a low compliance rate, what should be done differently, and what should be considered in order to promote adaptive health behaviors during the latter phases of the pandemic.


Abrams, D., & Hogg, M. A. (1990). Social identification, self-categorization and social influence. European Review of Social Psychology, 1, 195–228.

Azlan, A. A., Hamzah, M. R., Sern, T. J., Ayub, S. H., & Mohamad, E. (2020). Public knowledge, attitudes and practices towards COVID-19: A cross-sectional study in Malaysia. Plos one, 15(5), e0233668.

Barbour, R. (2008). Doing focus groups. Sage Publications.

Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912-920.

Calisher, C., Carroll, D., Colwell, R., Corley, R. B., Daszak, P., Drosten, C., Enjuanes, L., Farrar, J., Field, H., Golding, J., Gorbalenya, A., Haagmans, B., Hughes, J. M., Karesh, W. B., Keusch, G. T., Lam, S. K., Lubroth, J., Mackenzie, J. S., Madoff, L., Mazet, J., Palese, P., Perlman, S., Poon, L., Roizman, B., Saif, L., Subbarao, K., Turner, M. Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19. The Lancet, 395(10226), 42-43.

Cruwys, T., Stevens, M., & Greenaway, K. H. (2020). A social identity perspective on COVID-19: Health risk is affected by shared group membership. British Journal of Social Psychology, 59(3), 584– 593.

Douglas, K. M., Sutton, R. M., Callan, M. J., Dawtry, R. J., & Harvey, A. J. (2016). Someone is pulling the strings: Hypersensitive agency detection and belief in conspiracy theories. Thinking and Reasoning, 22(1), 57-77.

Franks, B., Bangerter, A., & Bauer, M. (2013). Conspiracy theories as quasi-religious mentality: an integrated account from cognitive science, social representations theory, and frame theory. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 424.

Gilder, E. (2020). Towards a post-pandemic postmodern society - Is the pandemic a deconstruction of the postmodern society? Postmodern Openings, 11(2), 1-11.

Harper, C. A., Satchell, L. P., Fido, D., & Latzman, R. D. (2020). Functional fear predicts public health compliance in the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.

Herek, G. M. (2007). Confronting sexual stigma and prejudice: Theory and practice. Journal of Social Issues, 63(4), 905–925.

Hogg, M. A., Abrams, D., & Brewer, M. B. (2017). Social identity: The role of self in group processes and intergroup relations. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 20(5), 570-581.

Huberman, A. M., & Miles, M. B. (1994). Data management and analysis methods. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (p. 428–444). Sage Publications.

Idoiaga, N., Berasategi, N., Eiguren, A., & Picaza, M. (2020). Exploring children’s social and emotional representations of the Covid-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1952.

Jaspal, R., & Nerlich, B. (2020). Social representations, identity threat, and coping amid COVID-19. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S249-S251.

Kruger, R. A. (1994). Focus groups: a practical guide to applied research. Sage Publications.

Li, H. (2020). Communication for coproduction: Increasing information credibility to fight the coronavirus. The American Review of Public Administration, 50(6-7), 692-697.

Madriz, E. (2000). Focus groups as feminist research. In N. K. Denzin, & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 835–850). Sage Publications.

Mamzer, H. (2020). Postmodern society and COVID-19 pandemic: Old, new and scary. Society Register, 4(2), 7-18.

Mian, A., & Khan, S. (2020). Coronavirus: the spread of misinformation. BMC medicine, 18(1), 1-2.

Mikušková, E. B. (2018). Conspiracy beliefs of future teachers. Current Psychology, 37(3), 692-701.

Mirbabaie, M., Bunker, D., Stieglitz, S., Marx, J., & Ehnis, C. (2020). Social media in times of crisis: Learning from Hurricane Harvey for the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic response. Journal of Information Technology, 35(3), 195-213.

Moscovici, S. (1988). Notes towards a description of social representations. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18(3), 211–250.

Ornell, F., Schuch, J. B., Sordi, A. O., & Kessler, F. H. P. (2020). “Pandemic fear” and COVID-19: mental health burden and strategies. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 42(3), 232-235.

Páez, D., & Pérez, J. A. (2020). Social representations of COVID-19 (Representaciones sociales del COVID-19). International Journal of Social Psychology, 35(3), 600-610.

Payne, G., & Payne, J. (2004). Key concepts in social research. Sage Publications.

Pfattheicher, S., Nockur, L., Böhm, R., Sassenrath, C., & Petersen, M. (2020). The emotional path to action: Empathy promotes physical distancing and wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PlumX Metrics. (2020). Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19. The Lancet, 395(10226), e42-e43.

Roberto, K. J., Johnson, A. F., & Rauhaus, B. M. (2020). Stigmatization and prejudice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Administrative Theory and Praxis, 42(3), 364-378.

Roy, D., Tripathy, S., Kar, S. K., Sharma, N., Verma, S. K., & Kaushal, V. (2020). Study of knowledge, attitude, anxiety & perceived mental healthcare need in Indian population during COVID-19 pandemic. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 51(1), 102083.

Savitsky, B., Findling, Y., Ereli, A., & Hendel, T. (2020). Anxiety and coping strategies among nursing students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurse Education in Practice, 46(1), 102809.

Shen, L., Condit, C. M., & Wright, L. (2009). The psychometric property and validation of a fatalism scale. Psychology and Health, 24(5), 597-613.

Silverman, D. (2000). Doing qualitative research. A practical handbook. Sage Publications.

Smith, J. R., & Hogg, M. A. (2008). Social identity and attitudes. In W. Crano & R. Prislin (Eds.), Attitudes and attitude change (pp. 337-360). Psychology Press.

Swami, V., Voracek, M., Stieger, S., Tran, U. S., & Furnham, A. (2014). Analytic thinking reduces belief in conspiracy theories. Cognition, 133(3), 572-585.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup confl ict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 33–47). Brooks/Cole.

Wagner, W., Duveen, G., Farr, R., Jovchelovitch, S., Lorenzi‐Cioldi, F., Marková, I., & Rose, D. (1999). Theory and method of social representations. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 2(1), 95-125.

Yang, H., Bin, P., & He, A. J. (2020). Opinions from the epicenter: An online survey of university students in Wuhan amidst the COVID-19 outbreak1. Journal of Chinese Governance, 5(2), 234-248.

Zacher, H., & Rudolph, C. W. (2020). Individual differences and changes in subjective wellbeing during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. American Psychologist.

Zipprich, H. M., Teschner, U., Witte, O. W., Schönenberg, A., & Prell, T. (2020). Knowledge, attitudes, practices, and burden during the COVID-19 pandemic in people with Parkinson’s disease in Germany. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 9(6), 1643.




How to Cite

Assante, G. M., & Candel, O. S. (2020). Students’ Views on the Covid-19 pandemic: Attitudes, Representations, and Coping Mechanisms. Postmodern Openings, 11(4), 347-365.



Research on Covid-19 Pandemic