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Covidiots or Responsible Citizens? Your Approach to Covid Depends on How Your Peers Behave in Pandemic

Representational image.

Representational image.

The unity shown by authority figures like politicians and health officials or your family and friends in following COVID-19 restrictions could shape your choices too.

Friends and closed-ones often end up with similar likes and dislikes or habits and some people can be easily influenced by the company they keep. But did you know these traits could actually be a factor in a situation like a coronavirus pandemic?

According to a new research study, people are more likely to imitate and follow behaviour patterns if they believe themselves to be a part of the same group.

The authors of this study then suggest such behavioural traits can be used to combat the ongoing pandemic by leaders and politicians. If authority figures like politicians and health officials portray a semblance of unity then maybe the public would also follow the COVID-19 restrictions.

Also Read: Cognitive Disorders May Increase the Risk of Developing Severe Covid-19, Suggests New Study

This social experiment was carried out the University of St Andrews, led by Professor Stephen Reicher, and has been published in the journal Plos One as “Self-categorization as a basis of behavioural mimicry: Experiments in The Hive.”

The experts found that people actually imitate behaviours, subconsciously, of others that when they consider them to a part of the same group. It may be peer, familial, trend etc. On the contrary, if people thought of themselves as divided from the group or part of an opposing faction, then they actively avoid the advice or oppose actions.

The authors suggest these results can be helpful in maximising public compliance with safety protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“'The fact that people are more likely to imitate others who they regard as 'in-group' is critical for maximising public compliance with safety protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Reicher.

Also Read: Inside India's Anti-Mask Movements: Why These People Don't Believe in Masks, Vaccine for Coronavirus

The key, he suggested, is to make people believe that guidance is directed at us/we/ourselves rather than they/them.

According to DailyMail, Government and health officials have conveyed mixed messages during the pandemic due to which the public has lost trust in their leaders.

Places like the UK and USA have seen large scale protests where they stop following some coronavirus protocols and blame the government of conspiracy and trying to control the public. Many leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Matt Hancock have publicly either not followed or ridiculed protocols.

Also Read: A Russian Scientist Deliberately Contracted Covid-19 Just for the Sake of Research

The researchers claim if leader behaviour was unified, even those who associate themselves with either party, belief etc would probably follow the safety protocols properly. They say that

“social contagion is not a guaranteed process” and that who sets an example to be followed matters. There is an unwritten social contract where people adhere to the social behaviour of the group they perceive they belong.


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