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Monday, October 4, 2021

Reactance, morality, and disgust: the relationship between affective dispositions and compliance with official health recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic

Díaz, R., & Cova, F. (2021). 
Cognition & emotion, 1–17. 


Emergency situations require individuals to make important changes in their behavior. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, official recommendations to avoid the spread of the virus include costly behaviors such as self-quarantining or drastically diminishing social contacts. Compliance (or lack thereof) with these recommendations is a controversial and divisive topic, and lay hypotheses abound regarding what underlies this divide. This paper investigates which psychological traits separate people who comply with official recommendations from those who don't. In four pre-registered studies on both U.S. and French samples, we found that individuals' self-reported compliance with official recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic was partly driven by individual differences in moral values, disgust sensitivity, and psychological reactance. We discuss the limitations of our studies and suggest possible applications in the context of health communication.

From the General Discussion

However, results for semi-partial correlations paint a different   picture. First, perspective-taking is no longer a significant predictor of past compliance, but only of future compliance. Moreover, correlations coefficients for care values and perspective-taking were no longer the highest:correlations were in the same order of magnitude for care values than for pathogen disgust and psychological reactance, and quite low (<.10) for perspective-taking. This suggests  that, compared to the  effect of pathogen disgust  and  psychological  reactance,  the effect of care values and perspective-taking was for a great part explainable by other variables. On the contrary,  the overall effect of Pathogen Disgust seemed mostly unaffected by  the introduction of other variables, suggesting that its effect is not explained by these other variables.

The effect of perspective-taking on past and future compliance was particularly low for Study 2a, compared to Studies 1a and 1b. What could explain this difference? A first possible explanation is the nature of our sample: two US samples in Studies 1a and 1b, and a French sample  for  Study  2a.  However, it is not  clear why  this  should make a difference to the relationship between perspective-taking and compliance. A second explanation might be that Study  2a  included fewer predictors  than  Studies1a and 1b.  However,  this  seems  unlikely, because the zero-order correlations for perspective-taking were also smaller in Study 2 a third explanation might be timing: as mentioned earlier,Studies 1a and 1 were conducted in the middle of the first wave, while Study 2a was conducted between the first and second French waves, at a time where victims of COVID-19 were far fewer and less present and salient in medias. In absence of actual persons to take the perspective of, perspective-taking might have been less likely to motivate compliance.