“The Tragedy of the Commons”: How Individualism and Collectivism Affected the Spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Yossi Maaravi, Aharon Levy, Tamar Gur, Dan Confino and Sandra Segal

Why did COVID-19 hit some countries harder than others? While this question is usually answered based on demographics (e. g., population age), health policy (e.g., quarantine), or economic factors, we argue that cultural variance across countries is just as crucial in understanding how susceptible a society is to the COVID-19 outbreak. To test this hypothesis, we first analyzed data collected across 69 countries and examined the relationship between culture and the impact of COVID. Next, we conducted two studies to validate our findings further and explore the mechanism at hand. As expected, we found that the more individualistic (vs. collectivistic) a country was, the more COVID-19 cases and mortalities it had. We also found that the more individualistic participants were, the higher the chances they would not adhere to epidemic prevention measures. These findings are important in understanding the spread of the pandemic, devising optimal exit strategies from lockdowns, and persuading the population to get the new vaccine against the virus.

Independence and interdependence predict health and wellbeing: divergent patterns in the United States and Japan

By Shinobu Kitayama, Mayumi Karasawa, Katherine B. Curhan, Carol D. Ryff and Hazel Rose Markus

A cross-cultural survey was used to examine two hypotheses designed to link culture to wellbeing and health. The first hypothesis states that people are motivated toward prevalent cultural mandates of either independence (personal control) in the United States or interdependence (relational harmony) in Japan. As predicted, Americans with compromised personal control and Japanese with strained relationships reported high perceived constraint. The second hypothesis holds that people achieve wellbeing and health through actualizing the respective cultural mandates in their modes of being. As predicted, the strongest predictor of wellbeing and health was personal control in the United States, but the absence of relational strain in Japan. All analyses controlled for age, gender, educational attainment, and personality traits. The overall pattern of findings underscores culturally distinct pathways (independent versus interdependent) in achieving the positive life outcomes.

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