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When the coronavirus pandemic began over a year ago, the whole world was waiting for a vaccine. Now, we have not just one, but several vaccines. Governments are keen on encouraging their citizens to get vaccinated to achieve the so-called herd immunity, but the response has been mixed. During his lecture, Professor Wojciech Kulesza from SWPS University will present results of social psychology research showing how an overly optimistic narrative about immunization has resulted in an unrealistic optimism bias that causes people to believe that they themselves are less likely to experience a negative event, such as getting infected with the virus.

The lecture, organized by SWPS University's Interdisciplinary Doctoral School is a part of the series The Challenges of the Humanities of the 21st Century.

The lecture will be delivered in English.

June 10
17:00 CEST (UTC+2)

Unrealistic Optimism Bias in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic

At first glance, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic is a medical problem. On November 24, 2020, during a Fresh Air radio program on the American National Public Radio (NPR), Dr. Peter Hotez, a world-renowned expert on vaccination, said that the key aspect of fighting this pandemic is COMMUNICATION with citizens. Dr. Hotez claimed that people should be encouraged to get vaccinated, because the herd immunity level can be achieved when 70 percent of population becomes immune to the disease, and the only tool to reach that threshold is through mass vaccination. Therefore, it becomes clear that the coronavirus pandemic is no longer a medical problem, but also a sociological and psychological one. During his lecture, Professor Kulesza will show how an overly optimistic narrative has resulted in an unrealistic optimism bias, which may be the key obstacle to reaching the 70 percent immunity goal.

Wojciech Kulesza


Professor Wojciech Kulesza – is a social psychologist. He researches the phenomenon of mimicry and mirroring in human behavior. He also studies psychology of love. He has written numerous publications on mimicry, including a book Efekt kameleona. Psychologia naśladownictwa [A Chameleon Effect. The Psychology of Mimicry] (2016), which analyses the phenomenon of mimicry and presents a balance of gains and losses resulting from mirroring. He publishes in Polish and international journals. Moreover, he often writes popular science articles for Polish publications, such as a daily Gazeta Wyborcza and a weekly magazine Polityka. He is a proponent of practical applications of social psychology. Full bio »


Despite its negative impact on the health of huge populations and significant consequences to the global economy, the coronavirus pandemic is also a great natural opportunity for medical, sociological, and psychological research. For example, it provided good conditions for studying the unrealistic optimism bias and Professor Wojciech Kulesza will tell us about his research results in this field.

Professor Izabela Grabowska, Director of Interdisciplinary Doctoral School

The Challenges of the Humanities of the 21st Century

“The Challenges of Humanities of the 21st Century” is a series of lectures by distinguished specialists, who represent various disciplines from the field of humanities. The events are aimed at students of SWPS University's Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program, however all interested parties are welcome. The format includes post-lecture informal discussions on topics presented by the invited experts. The friendly atmosphere of the events is conducive to networking, which lends itself to opportunities of future internships at universities or research centers around the world.

Doctoral Education at SWPS University

Doctoral Education at SWPS University is directed to people interested in an academic career and also to those, who would like to continue their education and personal development in support of their career advancement. The interdisciplinary character of our programs allows students to participate in projects from various disciplines. Our doctoral students collaborate with scholars from the best research centers in Poland and around the world. The master-apprentice approach guarantees that each student receives individual attention and professional support.

Date and Location

Lecture: June 10, 2021, 17:00 CEST (UTC+2)
Online lecture for doctoral students only.


SWPS University's Interdisciplinary Doctoral School »




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