Washington [US], May 21 (ANI): People in more collectivist cultures were more likely to wear masks than people in relatively individualistic cultures, new research has found.
The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) shows that people in collectivistic cultures were more likely than those in individualistic cultures to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the role of culture in people's response to crises.
The study carried out by Jackson G. Lu, Peter Jin, and Alexander S. English uses a series of datasets about mask usage and public attitudes, along with well-established empirical indices of collectivism, to evaluate the impact of those cultural differences on this element of the pandemic response.
Using data from a study of 248,941 people in all 50 US states, a study of 16,737 people in all 50 US states, a study of 367,109 people in 29 countries, and a study of 277,219 Facebook users in 67 countries, researchers report that people in collectivistic cultures were more likely than those in individualistic cultures to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the role of culture in people's response to crises.
According to the authors, since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has impacted world regions differentially. Whereas some regions still record tens of thousands of new infections daily, other regions have contained the virus.
"We advance a cultural psychological perspective on mask usage, a precautionary measure vital for curbing the pandemic. Four large-scale studies provide evidence that collectivism (versus individualism) positively predicts mask usage--both within the United States and across the world," said authors.
The researchers analyzed a dataset of all 3,141 counties of the 50 US states (based on 248,941 individuals), in which the study "1a" revealed that mask usage was higher in more collectivistic US states. Study 1b replicated this finding in another dataset of 16,737 individuals in the 50 US states, while the analyzes of the dataset of 367,109 individuals in 29 countries, study "2" revealed that mask usage was higher in more collectivistic countries. Study "3" replicated this finding in a dataset of 277,219 Facebook users in 67 countries.
The researchers said that the link between collectivism and mask usage was robust to a host of control variables, including cultural tightness-looseness, political affiliation, demographics, population density, socioeconomic indicators, universal health coverage, government response stringency, and time.
"Our research suggests that culture fundamentally shapes how people respond to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding cultural differences not only provides insight into the current pandemic but also helps the world prepare for future crises," the researchers said.
Based on the differences between collectivistic and individualistic cultures, the researchers theorize that collectivism (versus individualism) positively predicts people's mask usage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although masks effectively protect against COVID-19 (3), they can create physical discomfort and inconvenience. Because people in collectivistic cultures are more concerned with collective welfare, they may be more willing to tolerate such personal inconvenience and to wear masks (5, 16). By contrast, much as Kitayama lamented (1), people in individualistic cultures may be more apt to prioritize their personal convenience or preference over the collective welfare and therefore less willing to wear masks.
A COVID-19 survey found that 64 per cent of Americans who did not wear masks indicated "It's my right as an American to not wear a mask" or "It is uncomfortable" (17).
Meanwhile, related research has found that individualists are less likely than collectivists to engage in environmentally friendly behaviors that entail sacrificing personal convenience for the collective welfare (18, 19).
According to the researchers, they obtained permission to analyze a dataset collected by The New York Times and Dynata, which conducted a one-question survey about mask usage from July 2 to July 14, 2020.
It is noteworthy that by the time of the survey, COVID-19 had spread all over the United States, and the general public had been informed of the effectiveness of masks in mitigating the pandemic. 248,941 individuals from all 3,141 US counties participated in this survey. (ANI)