Research finds people more likely to follow Covid rules when friends and family do

January 21, 2021

New research has shown that people are more likely to follow Covid-19 restrictions based on what their friends do, rather than their own principles.

Research led by the University of Nottingham carried out in partnership with experts in collective behaviour from British, French, German and American universities shows how social influence affects people's adherance to government restrictions. The researchers found that the best predictor of people's compliance to the rules was how much their close circle complied with the rules, which had an even stronger effect than people's own approval of the rules.

The research published in British Journal of Psychology highlights a blindspot in policy responses to the pandemic. It also suggests that including experts in human and social behaviour is crucial when planning the next stages of the pandemic response, such as how to ensure that people comply with extended lockdowns or vaccination recommendations.

The lead researcher, Dr Bahar Tunçgenç from the University of Nottingham's School of Psychology and a research affiliate at the University of Oxford said: "When coronavirus first hit the UK in March, I was struck by how differently the leaders in Europe and Asia were responding to the pandemic. While the West emphasised 'each person doing the right thing', pandemic strategies in countries like Singapore, China and South Korea focussed on moving the collective together as a single unit. To understand what would work most effectively for bringing people on board in this moment of crisis, we set out to conduct a global study."

To investigate the role that social networks might play in preventing the spread of Covid-19, the researchers asked people from over 100 countries how much they, and their close social circle, approved of and followed the Covid-19 rules currently in place in their area.

The researchers found that people didn't simply follow the rules if they felt vulnerable or were personally convinced. Most diligent followers of the guidelines were those whose friends and family also followed the rules. Close circle's compliance had an even stronger effect than people's own approval of the rules. This discovery applied to all age groups, genders, countries, and was independent of the severity of the pandemic and strength of restrictions.The study also revealed that people who were particularly bonded to their country were more likely to stick to lockdown rules - the country was like family in this way, someone for whom one is willing to stick their neck out.

"Public policies are on the wrong track: We see scientists and politicians trying to boost the public's approval of the measures, so that vaccination campaigns and lockdowns get the support of the citizens, but approval does not mean compliance! You may make up your own mind about the measures, or listen to experts, but eventually, what you do depends on what your close friends do" says Ophelia Deroy, who is a professor of philosophy of mind and neuroscience at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Dr Tuncgenc concludes: "There is much that human behaviour research can offer to implement effective policies for the Covid-19 challenges we will continue to face in the future. Practical steps could include social apps, similar to social-based excercise apps, which tell people whether their close friends are enrolled for the vaccine. Using social media to demonstrate to your friends that you are following the rules, rather than expressing outrage at people who aren't following them could also be a more impactful approach. At national and local levels, public messages by trusted figures can emphasise collective values, such as working for the benefit of our loved ones and the community. Our message to policymakers is that even when the challenge is to practise social distancing, social closeness is the solution!"
-end-


University of Nottingham

Related Pandemic Articles from Brightsurf:

Areas where the next pandemic could emerge are revealed
An international team of human- and animal health experts has incorporated environmental, social and economic considerations -- including air transit centrality - to identify key areas at risk of leading to the next pandemic.

Narcissists love being pandemic 'essential workers'
There's one group of essential workers who especially enjoy being called a ''hero'' during the COVID-19 pandemic: narcissists.

COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
An interdisciplinary team from the University of Geneva and the ETH Z├╝rich spin-off Meteodat investigated possible interactions between acutely elevated levels of fine particulate matter and the virulence of the coronavirus disease.

People who purchased firearms during pandemic more likely to be suicidal
People who purchase a firearm during the pandemic are more likely to be suicidal than other firearm owners, according to a Rutgers study.

Measles outbreaks likely in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
Major measles outbreaks will likely occur during 2021 as an unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new academic article.

The COVID-19 pandemic: How US universities responded
A new George Mason University study found that the majority of university announcements occurred on the same day as the World Health Organization's pandemic declaration.

Researchers find evidence of pandemic fatigue
A new study from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology shows that the behavioral responses to COVID-19 differed by age.

Excessive alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic
The full impact of COVID-19 on alcohol use is not yet known, but rates have been rising during the first few months of the pandemic.

How fear encourages physical distancing during pandemic
Despite guidelines plastered on the walls and floors of grocery and retail stores encouraging customers to maintain six-feet of physical distance during the pandemic, many do not.

COVID-19 pandemic and $16 trillion virus
This Viewpoint aggregates mortality, morbidity, mental health conditions, and direct economic losses to estimate the total cost of the pandemic in the US on the optimistic assumption that it will be substantially contained by the fall of 2021.

Read More: Pandemic News and Pandemic Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.