The Social Cognitive Determinants of Avoiding Crowded Places: Cultural Differences and Political Polarization

Author Name Lucas Heiki MATSUNAGA (Tohoku University) / AOKI Toshiaki (Tohoku University) / Cristiane FAIAD (University of Brasilia) / Daniel ALDRICH (Northeastern University) / TSENG Po-Hsing (National Taiwan Ocean University) / AIDA Jun (Tokyo Medical and Dental University)
Creation Date/NO. December 2021 21-E-096
Research Project Social Scientific Studies on Self-replicating Natural and Technical Phenomenon
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Why residents of large cities undertake physical distancing during pandemics remains understudied. This research seeks to explain this behavior through: (1) a structural model in a multinational sample, (2) differences in its components by culture, and (3) by political differences. A survey on planned behavior, risk perception, moral obligation, and political views was conducted with 1196 respondents in Taipei, Tokyo, New York, and Brasilia. Firstly, the structural model explained 47% of behavior in Brasilia, 36% in Tokyo, 33% in New York, and 20% in Taipei. Secondly, there were significant differences in the means of each component across cities with great effect, especially in fear of contagion, moral obligation, behavior, and trust in authorities, which may be sensitive to local norms and the public health situation. Finally, political polarization in each country meant deviation from the core model, especially in Brasilia, Tokyo, and New York, where contrasts between political partisans leads to different perceptions on the determinants of the model, with the largest difference found in trust in authorities and fear of contagion. Thus, reducing political polarization, understanding target segments of society, managing risk perception, feelings of moral obligation, and the social cognitive determinants of avoiding crowded places can be a strategy for communications based on scientific evidence.