Individual costs and community benefits: Collectivism and individuals’ compliance with public health interventions

Suyi Leong, Kimin Eom, Keiko Ishii, Marion C. Aichberger, Karolina Fetz, Tim S. Müller, Heejung S. Kim, David K. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Differences in national responses to COVID-19 have been associated with the cultural value of collectivism. The present research builds on these findings by examining the relationship between collectivism at the individual level and adherence to public health recommendations to combat COVID-19 during the pre-vaccination stage of the pandemic, and examines different characteristics of collectivism (i.e., concern for community, trust in institutions, perceived social norms) as potential psychological mechanisms that could explain greater compliance. A study with a cross-section of American participants (N = 530) examined the relationship between collectivism and opting-in to digital contact tracing (DCT) and wearing face coverings in the general population. More collectivistic individuals were more likely to comply with public health interventions than less collectivistic individuals. While collectivism was positively associated with the three potential psychological mechanisms, only perceived social norms about the proportion of people performing the public health interventions explained the relationship between collectivism and compliance with both public health interventions. This research identifies specific pathways by which collectivism can lead to compliance with community-benefiting public health behaviors to combat contagious diseases and highlights the role of cultural orientation in shaping individuals’ decisions that involve a tension between individual cost and community benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0275388
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation Award grant #BCS-1823824. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Leong et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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