In the context of public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that individuals cooperate by complying with preventive measures (e.g., wearing a mask). The current research examines how high trust in close others is linked to less cooperation—that is, less compliance with measures—and thus, undermines collective interests. Specifically, we test whether individuals are less willing to comply with preventive measures when interacting with close others they trust. We conducted two experiments in which participants read a vignette depicting a social interaction with either close others (e.g., family) or strangers. Participants had to report the extent to which they would (1) trust the other people in the situation and (2) comply with the mask wearing and physical distancing measures during this interaction. In both experiments, we find that when individuals are considering an interaction with close others, they report experiencing higher trust which is then linked to lower compliance with preventive measures. In Experiment 2, we further demonstrate that participants report less compliance with preventive measures around close others, even when they perceive non-compliance with the measures as morally “wrong”. Our findings shed light on the challenges that compliance with preventive measures poses during social interactions in a context of high trust.
- COVID-19 pandemic
- preventive measures