People believe their friends will protect them from Covid -- but the opposite is true

A woman lifts her glass and cheers with friends during a virtual happy hour amid the coronavirus crisis.

(CNN)Your good friends may be able to help you get out of a jam. They may be good listeners and they may be good at keeping you company over a meal or drink. But they are decidedly not good at keeping you from getting sick with Covid-19, new research shows.

A study published Thursday found that while people in the friend zone are good for your mental health, when it comes to an infectious disease like Covid, your friends might make you even more vulnerable to it. It's what two scholars who happen to be BFFs found with the five studies they published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Hyunjung Crystal Lee and Eline De Vries are assistant and associate professors and marketing specialists who specialize in consumer behavior and business psychology in the Department of Business Administration at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.
It's long been known that friendship, while psychologically beneficial, can warp a person's perception of risk. Risk perception comes from a person's ability to judge the severity and probability of a negative outcome. Past studies have shown people tend to feel safer when they have a close relationship with someone, and that can lead them to make emotional rather than rational decisions.
    The researchers showed this through five different experiments with a wide variety of people throughout the course of the pandemic.
      Lee said she and De Vries were interested in the work because as they were living through the pandemic, they started wondering what makes people take risks and what conditions would make people feel vulnerable or invulnerable.
      "And then we went down the rabbit hole," De Vries added.
      It's what they call the "friend shield effect."
        "The idea was that we perceive our friends like a shield. We feel safe when Covid-19 is associated with friendship," De Vries said -- even if we shouldn't.
        The first experiment involved junk food. The professors divided up participants into two groups. One was asked to think about a close friend. The other group was asked to think about a distant acquaintance. Both wrote down memories of those people. Then they were given an article that argued eating unhealthy snacks could increase a person's risk to develop severe Covid. The article also mentioned that hand sanitizers and masks were protective.
        The groups were then allowed to shop online fr