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Social influence matters: we follow pandemic guidelines most when our close circle does

Social influence matters: we follow pandemic guidelines most when our close circle does

Tuncgenc, Bahar, El zein, Marwa, Sulik, Justin, Newson, Martha ORCID: 0000-0001-7700-9562, Zhao, Yi, Dezecache, Guillaume and Deroy, Ophelia (2021) Social influence matters: we follow pandemic guidelines most when our close circle does. British Journal of Psychology, 112 (3). pp. 763-780. ISSN 0007-1269 (Print), 2044-8295 (Online) (doi:

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Why do we adopt new rules, such as social distancing? Although human sciences research stresses the key role of social influence in behaviour change, most COVID-19 campaigns emphasize the disease’s medical threat. In a global data set (n = 6,675), we investigated how social influences predict people’s adherence to distancing rules during the pandemic. Bayesian regression analyses controlling for stringency of local measures showed that people distanced most when they thought their close social circle did. Such social influence mattered more than people thinking distancing was the right thing to do. People’s adherence also aligned with their fellow citizens, but only if they felt deeply bonded with their country. Self-vulnerability to the disease predicted distancing more for people with larger social circles. Collective efficacy and collectivism also significantly predicted distancing. To achieve behavioural change during crises, policymakers must emphasize shared values and harness the social influence of close friends and family.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Correction added on 19 April 2021, after first online publication: Total number of participants and participating countries have been corrected in the dataset used in this article.
Uncontrolled Keywords: pandemic; social influence; COVID-19 pandemic; norm change; public health behaviour; social closeness; social distancing
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2023 13:24

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