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

Cognition and Emotion (1) (2021)
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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 cognitive, moral, and emotional traits separate people who comply with official recommendations from those who don't. In four studies (three pre-registered) 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.

Author Profiles

Rodrigo Díaz
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
Florian Cova
University of Geneva


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