Evidence from 43 countries that disease leaves cultures unchanged in the short-term.

Pasin GL, Szekely A, Eriksson K, Guido A, di Sorrentino EP, Andrighetto G

Sci Rep 14 (1) 6502 [2024-03-18; online 2024-03-18]

Did cultures change shortly after, and in response to, the COVID-19 outbreak? If so, then in what way? We study these questions for a set of macro-cultural dimensions: collectivism/individualism, duty/joy, traditionalism/autonomy, and pro-fertility/individual-choice norms. We also study specific perceptions and norms like perceived threats to society (e.g. immigration) and hygiene norms. We draw on Evolutionary Modernization Theory, Parasite Stress Theory, and the Behavioural Immune System, and existing evidence, to make an overarching prediction: the COVID-19 pandemic should increase collectivism, duty, traditionalism, conformity (i.e. pro-fertility), and outgroup prejudice. We derive specific hypotheses from this prediction and use survey data from 29,761 respondents, in 55 cities and 43 countries, collected before (April-December 2019) and recently after the emergence of COVID-19 (April-June 2020) to test them. We exploit variation in disease intensity across regions to test potential mechanisms behind any changes. The macro-cultural dimensions remained stable. In contrast, specific perceptions and norms related to the pandemic changed: norms of hygiene substantially increased as did perceived threats related to disease. Taken together, our findings imply that macro-cultural dimensions are primarily stable while specific perceptions and norms, particularly those related to the pandemic, can change rapidly. Our findings provide new evidence for theories of cultural change and have implications for policy, public health, daily life, and future trajectories of our societies.

Category: Social Science & Humanities

Funder: KAW/SciLifeLab

Type: Journal article

PubMed 38499528

DOI 10.1038/s41598-023-33155-6

Crossref 10.1038/s41598-023-33155-6

pmc: PMC10948757
pii: 10.1038/s41598-023-33155-6

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