Cultural Antecedents of Virus Transmission: Individualism Is Associated With Lower Compliance With Social Distancing Rules During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Zhiyu Feng, Kunru Zou, Krishna Savani

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the context of COVID-19 government-ordered lockdowns, more individualistic people might be less willing to leave their homes to protect their own health, or they might be more willing to go out to relieve their boredom. Using an Australian sample, a pilot study found that people’s lay theories were consistent with the latter possibility, that individualism would be associated with a greater willingness to violate lockdown orders. Using a longitudinal data set containing location records of about 18 million smartphones across the United States, Study 1 found that people in more individualistic states were less likely to comply with social distancing rules following lockdown orders. Additional analyses replicated this finding with reference to counties’ residential mobility, which is associated with increased individualism. In a longitudinal data set containing mobility data across 79 countries and regions, Study 2 found that people in more individualistic countries and regions were also less likely to follow social distancing rules. Preregistered Study 3 replicated these findings at the individual level: People scoring higher on an individualism scale indicated that they had violated social distancing rules more often during the COVID-19 pandemic. Study 4 found that the effect of individualism on violating social distancing rules was mediated by people’s selfishness and boredom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-482
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume124
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • compliance
  • COVID-19
  • culture
  • independence
  • individualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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