Interpersonal Sensitivity in the Period of Self-Isolation and Its Role in the Choice of Social Distancing Measures



The present study was called forth by the relevant issue of COVID-19 pandemic. We emphasize that it emerged as a traumatic situation for many people, whereas measures against its spread further exacerbate psychological distress. In the current study we focused on interpersonal sensitivity in the clinical sense, as a heightened vulnerability to emotions and behaviors of the others linked to expectations of critique and rejection. The study examined the relationships between interpersonal sensitivity and a) protective measures against COVID-19; b) affiliation motivation, loneliness and current emotional state. The relationships were assessed employing correlation, regression and mediation analysis. The sample included 496 people (85,5% women and 14,5% men), aged 14—59 (M=20,42; SD=6,2).We used a survey including questions on adherence to social distancing recommendations and use of protective measures, the Russian versions of PANAS, UCLA Loneliness Scale, Mehrabian’s Affiliative Tendency and Sensitivity to Rejection Scales and Interpersonal Sensitivity Measure. The results show that interpersonal sensitivity increased in youth, positively correlated with negative affect, loneliness and fear of rejection, and negatively correlated with affiliation motivation, positive affect and self-reported psychological and physical state. Interpersonal sensitivity positively and affiliation motivation negatively predicted the choice of two protective measures: going out less and limiting contacts. Affiliation motivation mediated the relationship between interpersonal sensitivity and going out less.

General Information

Keywords: COVID-19, self-isolation, interpersonal sensitivity, fear of rejection, negative and positive affect, loneliness

Journal rubric: Psychological Well-Being

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project number № 20-013-00429.

Acknowledgements. The authors are grateful to Maria Melnikova, Master’s student, for assistance in data collection.

For citation: Polskaya N.A., Razvaliaeva A.Y. Interpersonal Sensitivity in the Period of Self-Isolation and Its Role in the Choice of Social Distancing Measures. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2020. Vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 63–76. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2020250606. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Vodop’yanova N.E.Psikhodiagnostika stressa [Psychodiagnostics of stress].Saint Petersburg: Piter, 2009.329 p.(In Russ.).
  2. Osin E.N.Izmerenie pozitivnykh i negativnykh emotsii: razrabotka russkoyazychnogo analoga metodiki PANAS [Measuring Positive and Negative Affect: Development of a Russian-language Analogue of PANAS].Psikhologiya. Zhurnal Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki = Psychology. Journal of the Higher of Economics, 2012.Vol.9, no.4, pp.91—110.(In Russ.).
  3. Petrikov S.S., Kholmogorova A.B., Suroegina A.Yu., Mikita O.Yu., Roi A.P., Rakhmanina A.A.Professional’noe vygoranie, simptomy emotsional’nogo neblagopoluchiya i distressa u meditsinskikh rabotnikov vo vremya epidemii COVID-19 [Professional Burnout, Symptoms of Emotional Distress and Distress among Healthcare Professionals during the COVID-19 Epidemic].Konsul’tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya = Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2020.Vol.28, no.2, pp.8—45.DOI:10.17759/cpp.2020280202.(In Russ., а Engl.).
  4. Sorokin M.Yu., Kas’yanov E.D., Rukavishnikov G.V., Makarevich O.V., Neznanov N.G., Lutova N.B., Mazo G.E.Psikhologicheskie reaktsii naseleniya kak faktor adaptatsii k pandemii COVID-19 [Psychological reactions of the population as a factor of adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic].Obozrenie psikhiatrii i meditsinskoi psikhologii = V.M. Bekhterev Review of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, 2020, no.2, pp.87—94.DOI:10.31363/2313-7053-2020-2-87-94.(In Russ.).
  5. Tkhostov A.Sh., Rasskazova E.I.Psikhologicheskoe soderzhanie trevogi i profilaktiki v situatsii infodemii: zashchita ot koronavirusa ili «porochnyi krug» trevogi? [Psychological Contents of Anxiety and the Prevention in an Infodemic Situation: Protection against Coronavirus or the “Vicious Circle” of Anxiety?].Konsul’tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya = Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2020.Vol.28, no.2, pp.70—89.DOI:10.17759/cpp.2020280204 (In Russ., а Engl.).
  6. Fetiskin N.P., Kozlov V.V., Manuilov G.M.Sotsial’no-psikhologicheskaya diagnostika razvitiya lichnosti i malykh grupp [Sociopsychological diagnostics of personality development and small groups].Moscow: Institut Psikhoterapii, 2002.488 p.(In Russ.).
  7. Kharlamenkova N.E., Bykhovets Yu.V., Dan M.V., Nikitina D.A.Perezhivanie neopredelennosti, trevogi, bespokoistva v usloviyakh COVID-19 [Experiences of uncertainty, anxiety and unrest during COVID-19] [Elektronnyi resurs].IP RAS Publ., 2020.Available at: kommentarii-eksp/har-1.html (Accessed 14.07.2020).(In Russ.).
  8. Abdelrahman M.Personality Traits, Risk Perception, and Protective Behaviors of Arab Residents of Qatar During the COVID-19 Pandemic [Elektronnyi resurs].International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2020.DOI:10.1007/s11469-020-00352-7
  9. Baumeister R.F., DeWall C.N., Ciarocco N.J., Twenge J.M.Social exclusion impairs self-regulation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005.Vol.88, no.4, pp.589—604.DOI:10.1037/0022- 3514.88.4.589
  10. Baumeister R.F., Leary M.R.The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation.Psychological Bulletin, 1995.Vol.117, no.3, pp.497—529.DOI:10.1037/0033- 2909.117.3.497
  11. Boyce P., Parker G.Development of a scale to measure interpersonal sensitivity.Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1989.Vol.23, no.3, pp. 341—351.DOI:10.1177/000486748902300320
  12. Brooks S.K., Webster R.K., Smith L.E., Woodland L., Wessely S., Greenberg N., Rubin G.J.The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence.The Lancet, 2020.Vol.395, no.10227, pp.912—920.DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8
  13. Feldman S., Downey G.Rejection sensitivity as a mediator of the impact of childhood exposure to family violence on adult attachment behavior.Development and Psychopathology, 1994.Vol.6, no.1, pp.231— 247.DOI:10.1017/S0954579400005976
  14. Forte G., Favieri F., Tambelli R., Casagrande M.The Enemy Which Sealed the World: Effects of COVID-19 Diffusion on the Psychological State of the Italian Population [Elektronnyi resurs].Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2020.Vol.9, no.6, p.1802.DOI:10.3390/jcm9061802
  15. Gao S., Assink M., Cipriani A., Lin K.Associations between rejection sensitivity and mental health outcomes: A meta-analytic review.Clinical Psychology Review, 2017.Vol.57, pp.59—74.DOI:10.1016/j.cpr.2017.08.007
  16. Hayes A.F.Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis.A Regression-Based Approach.2nd ed.New York: The Guilford Press, 2017.692 p.
  17. Leary M.R.Emotional responses to interpersonal rejection.Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 2015.Vol.17, no.4, pp.435—441.DOI:10.1093/acprof:o so/9780195130157.003.0006
  18. Leary M.R.Responses to Social Exclusion: Social Anxiety, Jealousy, Loneliness, Depression, and Low Self-Esteem.Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 1990.Vol.9, no.2, pp.221—229.DOI:10.1521/ jscp.1990.9.2.221
  19. Lee A., Wong J., McAlonan G., Cheung V., Cheung C., Sham P.C., Chu C.-M., Wong P.-C., Tsang K., Chua S.E.Stress and Psychological Distress Among SARS Survivors 1 Year After the Outbreak.The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 2007.Vol.52, no.4, pp. 233—240.DOI:10.1177/070674370705200405
  20. Levy S.R., Ayduk O., Downey G.The role of rejection sensitivity in people’s relationships with significant others and valued social groups.In Leary M.R.(ed.).Interpersonal rejection. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp.251—289.
  21. Lin L., Savoia E., Agboola F., Viswanath K.What have we learned about communication inequalities during the H1N1 pandemic: a systematic review of the literature [Elektronnyi resurs].BMC Public Health, 2014.Vol.14, no.1, p.484.DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-14-484
  22. Marin T.J., Miller G.E.The Interpersonally sensitive disposition and health: An integrative review.Psychological Bulletin, 2013.Vol.139, no.5, pp.941— 984.DOI:10.1037/a0030800
  23. Mehrabian A.Evidence bearing on the affiliative tendency (MAFF) and sensitivity to rejection (MSR) scales.Current Psychology, 1994.Vol.13, no.2, pp. 97—116.DOI:10.1007/BF02686794
  24. Olsson A., Carmona S., Downey G., Bolger N., Ochsner K.N.Learning biases underlying individual differences in sensitivity to social rejection.Emotion, 2013.Vol.13, no.4, pp.616—621.DOI:10.1037/a0033150
  25. Orgilés M., Morales A., Delveccio E., Mazzeschi C., Espada J.P.Immediate Psychological Effects of COVID-19 Quarantine in Youth from Italy and Spain [Elektronnyi resurs].SSRN Electronic Journal, 2020.DOI:10.2139/ssrn.3588552
  26. Roy D., Tripathy S., Kar S.K., Sharma N., Verma S.K., Kaushal V.Study of knowledge, attitude, anxiety & perceived mental healthcare need in Indian population during COVID-19 Pandemic [Elektronnyi resurs].Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 2020.Vol.51, p.102083.DOI:10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102083
  27. Schaan V.K., Schulz A., Bernstein M., Schächinger H., Vögele C.Effects of rejection intensity and rejection sensitivity on social approach behavior in women [Elektronnyi resurs].PLOS One, 2020.Vol. 15, no. 1.Available at: article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0227799 (Accessed 05.07.2020).
  28. Sprang G., Silman M.Posttraumatic stress disorder in parents and youth after health-related disasters.Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 2013.Vol.7, pp.105—110.DOI:10.1017/dmp.2013.22
  29. Taylor S.The psychology of pandemics: Preparing for the next global outbreak of infectious disease.Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019.158 p.
  30. Tian F., Li H., Tian S., Yang J., Shao J., Tian C.Psychological symptoms of ordinary Chinese citizens based on SCL-90 during the level I emergency response to COVID-19 [Elektronnyi resurs].Psychiatry Research, 2020, p.112992.DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112992
  31. Watson J., Nesdale D.Rejection Sensitivity, Social Withdrawal, and Loneliness in Young Adults.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2012.Vol.42, no.8, pp. 1984—2005.DOI:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2012.00927.x
  32. Xin M., Luo S., She R., et al.Negative cognitive and psychological correlates of mandatory quarantine during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in China.American Psychologist, 2020.Vol.75, no.5, pp.607—617.DOI:10.1037/amp0000692
  33. Zimmer-Gembeck M.J., Nesdale D.Anxious and angry rejection sensitivity, social withdrawal, and retribution in high and low Ambiguous situations.Journal of Personality, 2013.Vol.81, no.1, pp.29—38.DOI:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2012.00792.x

Information About the Authors

Natalia A. Polskaya, Doctor of Psychology, Associate Professor, Professor of the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Department, Faculty of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Moscow State University of Psychology & Education, Leading Researcher, Scientific and Practical Center for Mental Health of Children and Adolescents named after G.E. Sukhareva of the Moscow Department of Public Health, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Anna Y. Razvaliaeva, PhD in Psychology, Researcher, Laboratory of Cognitive Processes and Mathematical Psychology, Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 953
Previous month: 12
Current month: 11


Total: 601
Previous month: 7
Current month: 7