COVID Non-Compliers Are Less Open to New Ideas, More Extroverted and Driven by Self Interest

Summary: Those who flout COVID recommendations are less agreeable, have lower intellect, and tend to be more extroverted than those who adhere to recommendations. COVID non-conformists also prioritize self-interest and personal freedom and show greater tolerance for social deviance, a new study reports.

Source: University of Sydney

People who purposefully breach COVID-19 regulations tend to share certain characteristics, finds a study of attitudes and behaviors in Australia, the UK, the US and Canada.

When people protested the COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney last week, many were speculating about whether a certain type of person was more likely to be involved. Does science back that up?

A new University of Sydney study assessed people’s behaviours and attitudes towards pandemic regulations in Australia, the UK, the US, and Canada. It found that roughly 10 percent of people were noncompliant.

Those individuals were mostly male, less agreeable (cooperative, considerate), less intellectual as a personality trait (less willing to try new experiences), and more extroverted.

Published in high-ranking journal PLOS ONE, the study also found that these people tended to prioritise freedom and their own self-interest. They also perceived their social culture as tolerant to variation in values and behavior, with greater tolerance for deviance. Contrary to the stereotype, most of them were not young.

They also tended to engage less with official sources, such as government announcements and news and engaged more in unhealthy coping strategies such as denial and substance abuse.

“Alarmingly, the non-compliant group were more likely than the compliant group to leave their home to meet friends or family, for religious reasons, because they are bored, and to exercise their right to freedom,” said lead author, Associate Professor Sabina Kleitman from the University of Sydney School of Psychology. This behaviour is a major concern in Australia, especially during the current Sydney lockdown.”

She continued: “Our research reveals the need for targeted interventions to enhance COVID-19 regulation compliance, such as observing physical distancing. More targeted approaches might utilise a variety of media outlets, provide education to help people identify misinformation, and target specific false beliefs.”

This shows a woman with a faskmask with the word protest written on it
They also tended to engage less with official sources, such as government announcements and news and engaged more in unhealthy coping strategies such as denial and substance abuse. Image is in the public domain

The researchers gleaned their results from an online survey of 1,575 participants in March and April 2020. Participants reported their behaviours; attitudes; personality; cognitive/decision-making ability; resilience; adaptability; coping; political and cultural factors; and information consumption during the pandemic’s first wave in 2020.

Compliant characteristics

Those more likely to comply with COVID-19 restrictions (90 percent of participants across four countries) were more likely to be young, educated and/or at-risk due to poorer health.

Compliant individuals were more likely to be female, worry more, and believe in government-mandated protective measures. They coped with stress and anxiety more productively, with strategies like distraction and planning.

Making non-compliers comply

Associate Professor Kleitman identified key strategies to shift non-complaint individuals’ attitudes and behaviours:

  1. Focus more attention/resources on regulating and monitoring misinformation. Non-compliers appear not to use official sources for COVID-19 information, nor do they tend to verify the legitimacy of information.
  2. Frame some public health messages to appeal to self-interest. This may be more effective in promoting positive behaviour change among non-compliant people than appealing to social obligations.

Funding: The research was supported in part by a grant from the University of Sydney School of Psychology, and some funding from the University of Saskatchewan.

About this psychology research news

Source: University of Sydney
Contact: Loren Smith – University of Sydney
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
To comply or not comply? A latent profile analysis of behaviours and attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic” by Sabina Kleitman et al. PLOS ONE


To comply or not comply? A latent profile analysis of behaviours and attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic

How and why do people comply with protective behaviours during COVID-19? The emerging literature employs a variable-centered approach, typically using a narrow selection of constructs within a study.

This study is the first to adopt a person-centred approach to identify complex patterns of compliance, and holistically examine underlying psychological differences, integrating multiple psychology paradigms and epidemiology. 1575 participants from Australia, US, UK, and Canada indicated their behaviours, attitudes, personality, cognitive/decision-making ability, resilience, adaptability, coping, political and cultural factors, and information consumption during the pandemic’s first wave. Using Latent Profile Analysis, two broad groups were identified.

The compliant group (90%) reported greater worries, and perceived protective measures as effective, whilst the non-compliant group (about 10%) perceived them as problematic. The non-compliant group were lower on agreeableness and cultural tightness-looseness, but more extraverted, and reactant. They utilised more maladaptive coping strategies, checked/trusted the news less, and used official sources less. Females showed greater compliance than males.

By promoting greater appreciation of the complexity of behaviour during COVID-19, this research provides a critical platform to inform future studies, public health policy, and targeted behaviour change interventions during pandemics. The results also challenge age-related stereotypes and assumptions.

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  1. Anecdotally, I find that compliers are more self-righteous, intolerant and judgmental than normal people. Not to mention annoying. Full study with null hypothesis to follow.

  2. 4 minutes I’ll never get back! Imagine all the money saved for programs that could actually help humanity if we stopped funding asinine studies such as this.

  3. Well this makes sense. I mean why else would you protest something like this if you’re not scientifically, for lack of better words, an asshole. you dont have to agree with covid rules but you should follow them to keep others safe. Science again shows there is a direct psychological process going on in these types of ppl.

  4. You just lost all of the little credibility you ever had. what a ridiculously weak and poorly written piece of content, research. You should be ashamed. Your sample is small, obviously targeted to direct the narrative you wanted to drive. And by the way, this was conducted in 2020, the situation would be very different now.

  5. More propaganda claiming to be “science”. Pathetic. You actually criticize people for being the type that “exercise their right to freedom”. It would be laughable if there wasn’t a constant barrage of this crap propaganda from all of the useful idiots of the world.

  6. I can’t speak for the other countries but here in the states,it seems as though you get a mixture of information from the different news channels. Fox seems to be anti-vaccine while networks like cnn, msnbc, and CBS are pro-vaccine. One of the very concerning problems I’m seeing pop up more and more often is how much shaming and demoralizing some of these programs are getting to be towards people who don’t want the vaccine. They act like its just a bunch of uneducated,red-kneck men that don’t care about anybody but themselves which is far from the truth. Any speculation is painted under that extremely broad stroke as conspiracy theory. I’m not sure where the quote came from but it goes something like this..” A wise man asks questions before making a decision, while a fool will take anybody’s word as truth.” In short, there’s too much propaganda and too many questionable “facts” to truly buy what anybody is selling. I don’t want to look up in 20 years and see a claims commercial come on tv stating that if you are severely messed up from the covid vaccines, you may be entitled to compensation. I think that if vaccines were forced that whoever is responsible for administering the vaccines, along with entities responsible for pushing the vaccine( including our governments) should be forced to sign a contract stating that you or your family will be compensated in whatever the monetary standard form of currency at the time that said contract would possibly be executed and that it be a very large sum. It’s a shame, science was always one of my favorite subjects throughout school. I just about scored a 100 in science my entire school career. Unfortunately it seems that I can’t even trust science fully today because of all of the propaganda and lobbyists.

  7. Unbelievable that this article is being posted. There is no credibility whatsoever to this report or the so called shotty and silly uneducated research listed. With even posting this article your platform has proven to be no better than that of the national inquirer. You have no credibility at all so please just remove yourself from speaking or reporting on any social science topics.

  8. Step 1. Fearmonger
    Step 2. Hatemonger
    Step 3. Active Ostracism

    We are conditioned to think on a one dimensional plane.

    Left or right.
    Black or white.
    Dissentry or medical apartheid.

    True epistemology seeks balance between informational bias and compulsive deflection.

    You favor a dangerous narrative that enables a blanket-statement perspective.

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