By Emily Reynolds
The ever-changing public health measures put in place during the coronavirus pandemic weren’t always crystal clear. However, some instructions have stayed the same throughout: wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay two meters apart.
Despite the strength and frequency of this news, the public has not always adhered to it. While the exact reason for this non-compliance is clearly complex, researchers at the University of Washington have suggested a factor that could affect people’s behavior: the extent to which they identify with other people. Write in Plus oneThey suggest that connection with, and moral commitment to, other people could be associated with a greater willingness to follow COVID-related guidelines.
Participants were 2,537 adults from around the world based in countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia. First, they were asked how likely they were to follow the health behaviors recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the beginning of 2020 as the pandemic spread around the world. The four main behaviors recommended by WHO were thorough hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, social distancing, and not touching your face.
They were then asked how likely they are to engage in four prosocial behaviors: donating masks to a hospital, picking up someone with COVID-19 from the roadside, shopping for a family who needs groceries despite being at home, and guidelines call an ambulance for someone affected by the virus.
Participants then reported how strict the lockdown of their country or area was at that time, how available the tests were in their area, and how much they felt they were personally at risk of contracting the virus. They also reported how much they identified with their own community and nation, and how much they eventually identified with all of humanity (e.g., in response to statements such as “How much do you believe in being faithful to all of humanity be?”).
Those who identified themselves more strongly with the whole of humanity were significantly more likely to say they would engage in both prosocial behaviors such as donating masks and grocery shopping for others, as well as the WHO’s health behaviors to help control the spread of the virus to stop. Other factors also affected prosocial behavior. Identification with one’s own community, for example, was strongly linked to several results. However, identification with all of humanity was the only variable that was significantly predicted all five Results and had a much greater effect than any of the other variables.
The result is positive news for those who oppose nationalism – participants who identified more closely with their own community and Humanity as a whole was more willing to behave prosocially and healthily than those who identified strongly with their nation alone. As the team puts it, the strongest prosocial behavior is seen in those who feel attached to the “greater family of humankind” than to any particular nation.
But how exactly does identification with humanity develop? Further research could look into how such ideas emerged, as well as a wider demographic sample (72% of this sample had a university degree, for example). Determining whether certain personality types or traits are associated with such beliefs could also be instructive.
It is also unclear to what extent these results explain not only the non-compliance but also the full explanation Rejection of guidelines. It may also be necessary to find out what makes anti-lockdown groups tick when it comes to increasing public health interventions.
– Identification with all of humanity predicts cooperative health behavior and helpful reactions during COVID-19
Emily Reynolds is an associate at BPS Biomedarticles