The coronavirus pandemic has led us to rapidly re-shape our world, legislating social activities that were once everyday and carving out new norms of public etiquette.
But there will always be some who don’t play by the rules.
[Counter demonstrator in Germany, saying:’ "I think it is so selfish. Actually these rules are necessary.”
[Anti-mask activist in the U.S., saying:] “... you want to call me selfish for not wearing a mask? I want to say to you, all the people calling me selfish, you are the one who is trying to force me, a medical procedure, so you can feel more safe."
The reasons behind COVID-19 rule-breaking are myriad, from passionate anti-mask libertarians to the more casual flouter who just loves a hug.
“We are truly social animals. And that means that the pandemic goes against a lot of our instincts.”
Jay Van Bavel is an associate professor of psychology at New York University.
“I think that until we get a vaccine, we need more behavioral and social science than ever.”
He laid out the key factors that lead some to reject coronavirus measures.
[NYU Associate Professor Jay Van Bavel, saying:] “A key cultural factor that varies around the world is factors like individualism versus collectivism. Some countries, especially like the United States and the U.K. and Canada, tend to be higher on individualism, which is about expressing your sense of identity and who you are as an individual. And in those places, people are less likely to go along to get along and they're more likely to engage in rule breaking type of behavior.”
“Whereas in countries, especially in East Asia is a good example, that are collectivistic people are likely to do what other people are doing to try to fit in and do what's best for the group.”
“A political factor that also matters, especially in the United States and other countries that are polarized, is partizanship. So if there is a distrust of political leaders from the other party that's not your own, you might not follow what they say. And so this is happening really badly right now in the United States. “In cultures where you have a lot of polarization, you might see that it's almost like there's two two groups in the country doing different things.”
“Our bodies and brains are designed for connection and the pandemic in many ways goes against our instincts to connect. And so that's one of the reasons why you do see where there's outbreaks and super spreader events are often when people are all coming together at religious ceremonies or weddings or parties or bars because people can't have a hard time resisting that tendency for social and group connection.’
“People on average are fairly optimistic about the future. Optimism can be useful, it can lead you to apply for a job that you might not otherwise think you could get. The problem is, in a situation like a pandemic, it can lead you to take risks that are incredibly dangerous.”
“Many of our habits and behaviors are deeply ingrained in us because we've been doing them since we were small kids and they're automatic reactions that lead us to engage with people in certain ways (...) Cultural change is slow."
"And so it is a challenge to get a massive compliance with these new policies. So that's what we're trying to do, is change something that normally we would change over years and do it in the matter of days or weeks.”