Collectivism is a strong and important predictor of whether or not people in a region wear masks during COVID-19

Collectivism is a strong and important predictor of whether or not people in a region wear masks during COVID-19

Beyond denialist attitudes, in countries there are significant variations between people who agree to wear a mask to protect and protect themselves from COVID-19 and people who do not.

A new study looks at this trend based on the underlying psychology and sociology in society. Specifically, the predominant factor seems to be collectivism .

Collectivism VS individualism

Collectivism refers broadly to the inclination to prioritize the needs of a group over the concerns of an individual, and social scientists have often worked to measure its presence among different populations.

A new study suggests that a collectivist culture is a key factor in mask wear even after taking many other factors into account , including political orientation, state policies, the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks, and more. In collectivist cultures, people consider wearing masks not only a responsibility or a duty, but also a symbol of solidarity: we are united and fighting together against this pandemic.

To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed four data sets. The first, compiled in July 2020, was a survey of mask use in the United States that included 248,941 Americans in the nation’s 3,141 counties . The second data set was a survey of 16,737 Americans in all 50 states.

By analyzing both data sets, the researchers examined how strongly mask use correlated with measures of collectivism in all 50 states . The collectivism of a state can be scored based on survey responses from representative samples of the population.

By analyzing the results, the researchers controlled for a large set of other factors that could influence mask use, including severity of COVID-19 outbreaks in states, government policies, political affiliations across the public, education levels, population density, per capita income, age and gender.

For example, Hawaii has the highest collectivism rating and the second highest level of mask use (slightly behind Rhode Island). At the other end of the spectrum, a handful of Great Plains and Mountain West states have low collectivism scores and low levels of mask use, including Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, and Kansas.

The researchers also used two global data sets to apply the same method to a set of countries. The first dataset was based on the same 2020 survey conducted by YouGov and the Institute for Innovation in Global Health, this time generating data on mask use for 367,109 people from 29 countries and territories .

The second global dataset is one that MIT researchers developed in collaboration with Facebook, creating a weighted survey on mask use that generated responses from 277,219 participants in 67 countries and territories.

The results were the same: Collectivism scores again predict which countries tend to have high levels of mask use .