Adherence to COVID-19 Measures: The Critical Role of Autonomous Motivation on a Short and Long-Term Basis

Sofie Morbée, Branko Vermote, Joachim Waterschoot, Lisa Dieleman, Bart Soenens, Omer Van den Bergh, Richard M. Ryan, Janne Vanhalst, Gert Jan de Muynck, Maarten Vansteenkiste

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


To limit the spreading of the SARS-CoV-2-virus, governments worldwide have introduced behavioral measures that require considerable effort from their citizens to adhere to. Grounded in Self-Determination Theory, the present research sought to examine in a study among Belgian citizens the cross-sectional (total N = 45975, Mage = 50.42), week-to-week (subsample 1; N = 981, Mage = 41.32), and long-term (subsample 2; N = 5643, Mage = 53.09) associations between various individual motives to follow government guidelines and their self-reported adherence to these measures. Controlling for COVID-specific concerns and perceived risk for infection, autonomous motivation related positively to citizens’ concurrent adherence (total sample), their increased week-to-week adherence during the lockdown (subsample 1), and their persistent adherence during an exit phase (subsample 2). Introjected regulation and external regulation were positively and negatively associated with concurrent adherence, respectively, but had no long-term predictive value. The findings indicate that citizens’ autonomous motivation is a robust predictor of adherence, suggesting that politicians, policymakers, and experts do well to adopt a communication style that ongoingly fosters autonomous motivation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMotivation Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

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© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • COVID-19
  • adherence
  • motivation
  • self-determination theory


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