Changes in social norms during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic across 43 countries

Giulia Andrighetto*, Aron Szekely, Andrea Guido, Michele Gelfand, Jered Abernathy, Gizem Arikan, Zeynep Aycan, Shweta Bankar, Davide Barrera, Dana Basnight-Brown, Anabel Belaus, Elizaveta Berezina, Sheyla Blumen, Paweł Boski, Huyen Thi Thu Bui, Juan Camilo Cárdenas, Đorđe Čekrlija, Mícheál de Barra, Piyanjali de Zoysa, Angela DorroughJan B. Engelmann, Hyun Euh, Susann Fiedler, Olivia Foster-Gimbel, Gonçalo Freitas, Marta Fülöp, Ragna B. Gardarsdottir, Colin Mathew Hugues D. Gill, Andreas Glöckner, Sylvie Graf, Ani Grigoryan, Katarzyna Growiec, Hirofumi Hashimoto, Tim Hopthrow, Martina Hřebíčková, Hirotaka Imada, Yoshio Kamijo, Hansika Kapoor, Yoshihisa Kashima, Narine Khachatryan, Natalia Kharchenko, Diana León, Lisa M. Leslie, Yang Li, Kadi Liik, Marco Tullio Liuzza, Angela T. Maitner, Pavan Mamidi, Michele McArdle, Imed Medhioub, Maria Luisa Mendes Teixeira, Sari Mentser, Francisco Morales, Jayanth Narayanan, Kohei Nitta, Ravit Nussinson, Nneoma G. Onyedire, Ike E. Onyishi, Evgeny Osin, Seniha Özden, Penny Panagiotopoulou, Oleksandr Pereverziev, Lorena R. Perez-Floriano, Anna Maija Pirttilä-Backman, Marianna Pogosyan, Jana Raver, Cecilia Reyna, Ricardo Borges Rodrigues, Sara Romanò, Pedro P. Romero, Inari Sakki, Angel Sánchez, Sara Sherbaji, Brent Simpson, Lorenzo Spadoni, Eftychia Stamkou, Giovanni A. Travaglino, Paul A.M. Van Lange, Fiona Fira Winata, Rizqy Amelia Zein, Qing Peng Zhang, Kimmo Eriksson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The emergence of COVID-19 dramatically changed social behavior across societies and contexts. Here we study whether social norms also changed. Specifically, we study this question for cultural tightness (the degree to which societies generally have strong norms), specific social norms (e.g. stealing, hand washing), and norms about enforcement, using survey data from 30,431 respondents in 43 countries recorded before and in the early stages following the emergence of COVID-19. Using variation in disease intensity, we shed light on the mechanisms predicting changes in social norm measures. We find evidence that, after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, hand washing norms increased while tightness and punishing frequency slightly decreased but observe no evidence for a robust change in most other norms. Thus, at least in the short term, our findings suggest that cultures are largely stable to pandemic threats except in those norms, hand washing in this case, that are perceived to be directly relevant to dealing with the collective threat.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1436
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

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