Faculty Publications

Individual Differences In Social Distancing And Mask-Wearing In The Pandemic Of Covid-19: The Role Of Need For Cognition, Self-Control And Risk Attitude

Document Type



COVID-19, Mask-wearing, Need for cognition, Political ideology, Risk attitude, Self-control, Social distancing

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Personality and Individual Differences




In the United States, while the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, the practice of social distancing and mask-wearing have been controversial and even politicized. The present study examined the role of psychological traits in social distancing compliance and mask-wearing behavior and attitude. A sample of 233 U.S. adult residents were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk. Participants completed scales of social distancing compliance, mask-wearing behavior and attitude, need for cognition, self-control, risk attitude, and political ideology. Epidemiological information (seven-day positive rate and the number of cases per 100,000) was obtained based on the state participants resided in. As a result, epidemiological information did not correlate with social distancing compliance mask-wearing. Political ideology, on the other hand, was a significant factor, with a more liberal tendency being associated with greater engagement in social distancing compliance and mask-wearing behavior an attitude. Importantly, those who were more risk averse, or had a higher level of self-control or need for cognition practiced more social distancing and mask-wearing, after controlling for demographics, epidemiological information, and political ideology. Furthermore, for mask-wearing behavior, political ideology interacted with both need for cognition and self-control. Collectively, the study revealed the psychological roots of individual differences in social distancing and mask-wearing compliance.


Department of Psychology

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version



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