Recently, first year Master’s student Joey, presented a proposal for his master’s thesis titled Understanding the Cultural Differences in Behavior During a Global Pandemic. Joey is interested in examining how social identity influences one’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent depression symptoms. Social identity, within the context of his study, refers to the cultural alignment of individuals, typically expressed as either individualistic or collectivistic at the most basic understanding. Individualism is typically reflective of western cultures, and describes individuals who are autonomous and independent, prioritizing their own personal goals above those in-group. Collectivism on the other hand, describes individuals who are interdependent, and prioritize the goals of their in-group over their own personal goals. Therefore, Joey predicts that collectivist individuals will be more likely to engage in prosocial behavior (such as wearing a mask and social distancing) than individualists. He also hypothesizes that collectivistic individuals will be more likely to experience greater depression and suicide ideation, in that individuals who align with the collectivist social identity will suffer more from experiencing social isolation due to procedures put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joey plans to test his hypotheses by studying samples in America as well as Japan. The main goal of his research is to establish and understand the relationships between individuals’ perceived social identities and their prosocial behavior, or lack thereof, in response to COVID-19. Once relationships between culture and behavior are established, Joey would like to investigate what information is most persuasive in promoting prosocial behavior for individuals in different cultures. Awesome work Joey, we can’t wait to receive updates!