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Collectivism drives efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19

June 29, 2020

Research from the University of Kent has found that people who adopt a collectivist mindset are more likely to comply with social distancing and hygiene practices to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

People who are more individualist are less likely to engage, partly due to beliefs in COVID-19 conspiracy theories, and feelings of powerlessness surrounding the pandemic.

This study suggests the need for the UK Government and other world leaders to consider promoting collectivism amongst the general public, and to combat the spread of conspiracy theories and other types of misinformation. Doing so may increase levels of engagement in practices to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The research was led by Mikey Biddlestone alongside Ricky Green and Professor Karen Douglas at the University of Kent's School of Psychology. A total of 724 participants completed an online questionnaire addressing their actions relating to social distancing and hygiene measures, their individualist-collectivist mindset, feelings of powerlessness surrounding the pandemic, and their beliefs in COVID-19 conspiracy theories such as the idea that COVID-19 was made in a Chinese laboratory.

Mikey Biddlestone said: 'Interventions that focus on collective empowerment and champion a 'we are in this together' mentality could encourage people to comply with guidelines that will reduce the spread of COVID-19. Promoting collectivism could make a positive difference to future public health crises too, as leaders look to improve response strategies. A collectivist mindset might also make people less susceptible to conspiracy theories and misinformation that can negatively affect their behaviour.'
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Their paper, 'Cultural orientation, powerlessness, belief in conspiracy theories, and intentions to reduce the spread of COVID-19' is published in the British Journal of Social Psychology. DOI:10.1111/bjso.12397

University of Kent

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