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Social Distancing Prevents Infections, But It Can Have Unintended Consequences

“The coronavirus spreading around the world is calling on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends, getting together in groups, or touching each other,” says Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and physician at Yale University. And social distancing also tests the human capacity for cooperation, he adds. “Pandemics are an especially demanding test … because we are not just trying to protect people we know, but also people we do not know or even, possibly, care about.” The effects of short-term social distancing haven’t been well studied, but several researchers — most of them scrambling to deal with disruptions to their own lives because of the coronavirus — recently took time to share some thoughts with ScienceInsider on the potential social and psychological impacts, and how to mitigate them.

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