Press Releases

Research Debunks Perception that State or National Lines Offer Protection from Swine Flu

NEW YORK--As panic surrounding the spread of swine flu heightens following the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic, many may be fooling themselves into believing that their state or national border can provide protection from the virus, based on new research from NYU Stern on people's tendency to treat arbitrary political boundaries as safeguards.

In one of their studies, Stern Marketing Professor Justin Kruger, recent Stern Marketing PhD graduate Jeff Galak (now of Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business) and Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania, presented participants with a scenario in which a potentially hazardous industrial site or nuclear plant was being built near their home. They found that participants were less concerned about the potential health hazards if they were "protected" by a state or national border, even though that political border provided no physical barrier.

“This phenomenon of believing you’re safe from the H1N1 virus, or any other contagion, just because it isn’t in your state or country appears to be common and can be dangerous. So being aware of this human tendency is critical as public safety and health agencies, including the CDC, formulate their communications plans about potential hazards,” said Professor Kruger.

The findings are featured in their new paper entitled, "Not in My Backyard: The Psychological Significance of Arbitrary Borders."

To read a summary of the report, click here.

To speak with Professor Justin Kruger, please contact him directly at 212-998-0504,; or contact Carolyn Ritter in NYU Stern’s Office of Public Affairs, 212-998-0624,

June 16, 2009: