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Changes in social norms during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic across 43 countries

Andrighetto, Giulia, Szekely, Aron, Guido, Andrea, Gelfand, Michele, Abernathy, Jered, Arikan, Gizem, Aycan, Zeynep, Bankar, Shweta, Barrera, Davide, Basnight-Brown, Dana, and others. (2024) Changes in social norms during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic across 43 countries. Nature Communications, 15 (1). Article Number 1436. E-ISSN 2041-1723. (doi:10.1038/s41467-024-44999-5) (KAR id:105019)


The emergence of COVID-19 dramatically changed social behavior across societies and contexts. Here we study whether social norms also changed. Specifically, we study this question for cultural tightness (the degree to which societies generally have strong norms), specific social norms (e.g. stealing, hand washing), and norms about enforcement, using survey data from 30,431 respondents in 43 countries recorded before and in the early stages following the emergence of COVID-19. Using variation in disease intensity, we shed light on the mechanisms predicting changes in social norm measures. We find evidence that, after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, hand washing norms increased while tightness and punishing frequency slightly decreased but observe no evidence for a robust change in most other norms. Thus, at least in the short term, our findings suggest that cultures are largely stable to pandemic threats except in those norms, hand washing in this case, that are perceived to be directly relevant to dealing with the collective threat.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41467-024-44999-5
Uncontrolled keywords: Humans, Social Behavior, Pandemics, Social Norms, Surveys and Questionnaires, COVID-19
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (
Ministry of Education, Universities and Research (
Czech Science Foundation (
European Research Council (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2024 16:51 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 14:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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