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People are more likely to follow Covid-19 restrictions if their FRIENDS do, study finds

Leading by example: People are more likely to follow Covid-19 restrictions like handwashing and social distancing if their friends and family do, study finds

  • People were asked how much they and their friends followed restrictions
  • Results revealed that people didn’t simply follow the rules if they felt vulnerable
  • Instead, people followed guidelines when their friends also followed the rules
  • Researchers hope findings will highlight a ‘blindspot’ in policy responses

With the UK now in its third lockdown, many Brits are itching for restrictions to be eased and for life to return to ‘normal.’

Now, a new study has revealed why some people are more likely to follow Covid-19 restrictions than others.

The findings indicate that people’s adherence to Covid-19 restrictions is more heavily influenced by what their friends and family do than their own principles.

The researchers hope the findings will highlight a ‘blindspot’ in policy responses to the pandemic, and suggest that experts in social behaviour should be involved when planning the next stages.

People are more likely to stick to Covid-19 restrictions based on what their friends do, rather than their own principles (stock image)

KEY FINDINGS 

In the study, the team asked people form over 100 countries how much they, and their friends, approved of and followed restrictions in their area.

The results revealed that people didn’t simply follow the rules if they felt vulnerable.

Instead, people were found to follow the guidelines when their friends and family also followed the rules.

This applied to participants in all age groups, genders and countries, and was independent of the severity of the pandemic and strength of restrictions.

Meanwhile, people who were particularly bonded to their country were more likely to stick to lockdown rules.

In the study, researchers from the University of Nottingham set out to understand why some people are more likely to stick to Covid-19 restrictions than others.

Dr Bahar Tunçgenç from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology, and lead author of the study, said: ‘When coronavirus first hit the UK in March, I was struck by how differently the leaders in Europe and Asia were responding to the pandemic.

‘While the West emphasised “each person doing the right thing”, pandemic strategies in countries like Singapore, China and South Korea focussed on moving the collective together as a single unit.

‘To understand what would work most effectively for bringing people on board in this moment of crisis, we set out to conduct a global study.’

In the study, the team asked 6,674 people from over 100 countries how much they, and their friends, approved of and followed restrictions in their area.

The results revealed that people didn’t simply follow the rules if they felt vulnerable.

Instead, people were found to follow the guidelines when their friends and family also followed the rules.

This applied to participants in all age groups, genders and countries, and was independent of the severity of the pandemic and strength of restrictions.

The researchers hope the findings will highlight a 'blindspot' in policy responses to the pandemic

The researchers hope the findings will highlight a ‘blindspot’ in policy responses to the pandemic

Meanwhile, people who were particularly bonded to their country were more likely to stick to lockdown rules.

Professor Ophelia Deroy, a professor of philosophy of mind and neuroscience at Ludwig Maximillian University of Munich, and co-author of the study, said: ‘You may make up your own mind about the measures, or listen to experts, but eventually, what you do depends on what your close friends do.’

The researchers hope the findings will highlight a ‘blindspot’ in policy responses to the pandemic, and suggest that experts in social behaviour should be involved when planning the next stages.

‘There is much that human behaviour research can offer to implement effective policies for the Covid-19 challenges we will continue to face in the future,’ Dr Tuncgenc added.

‘Practical steps could include social apps, similar to social-based exercise apps, which tell people whether their close friends are enrolled for the vaccine.

‘Using social media to demonstrate to your friends that you are following the rules, rather than expressing outrage at people who aren’t following them could also be a more impactful approach.

‘At national and local levels, public messages by trusted figures can emphasise collective values, such as working for the benefit of our loved ones and the community. Our message to policymakers is that even when the challenge is to practise social distancing, social closeness is the solution!’

THE UK GOVERNMENT’S ADVICE ON FACE COVERINGS

If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. 

This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example, on public transport or in some shops.

Evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you. 

However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.

Face coverings do not replace social distancing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (cough and/or high temperature), you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. 

These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 2 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly. For example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

You can make face-coverings at home. The key thing is it should cover the mouth and nose.

SOURCE: GOV.UK



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