Joey Rhodes, a second-year Master’s student, presented his study “Understanding Cultural Differences in Behavior During a Global Pandemic”, which examined the differences between those who lived in Japan and the United States. The importance of this research is that gaining an understanding of someone’s behavior is the first step in learning how to motivate them to continue or stop a behavior. The objective was to understand potential factors that may increase or decrease precautionary behavior in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the purpose was to establish and understand the relationships between individuals’ perceived cultural values (e.g., individualism-collectivism) and their prosocial behavior, or lack thereof, in response to COVID-19; and once relationships between culture and behavior are established, to understand what information is most persuasive in promoting prosocial behavior for individuals in different cultures.
Joey hypothesized (1) collectivistic participants will be more likely to report having engaged in precautionary behaviors than individualistic participants, regardless of country of origin. (2) Participants primed for collectivism will be more likely to report willingness to engage in precautionary behavior in the future than individualism-primed participants regardless of country of origin along with (3) those who were primed for collectivism will be more likely to report willingness to engage in precautionary behavior in the future than individualism-primed participants regardless of country of origin. (4) Participants that show a preference for dichotomous thinking will be more likely to report engaging in precautionary behavior than participants lower in dichotomous thinking, regardless of country of origin. (5) Participants currently living in Japan will be more susceptible to depression and suicidal ideation than participants currently living in the United States. Lastly, (6) participants who show a preference for interpersonal adjustment will be more likely to report engaging in precautionary behavior than participants who show a preference for interpersonal influence.
Participants were college students recruited from Japan and the United States with the inclusion criteria of having to be 18 and older with fluency in the native language of their country. American participants received SONA class credit from completing the online survey through Qualtrics, which took on average 28 minutes. The survey collected general demographics, precautionary behavior in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other measures.
Results show that hypothesis one was not supported with a small non-significant relationship between individualism and precautionary behaviors. Hypothesis two was also not supported with no significant relationship between primed groups and predicted precautionary behaviors. Hypothesis three concluded a small non-significant correlation between independent self-construal and precautionary behaviors along with a significant negative relationship (p < .001) between mask-wearing and independent self-construal. There was no significant relationship for total precautionary behaviors and a significant negative relationship between DTI and mask-wearing (p = .009) for hypothesis four. For hypothesis five, participants in Japan scored higher on both measures of depression and suicidal ideation (p < .001). Lastly, hypothesis six discovered a significant negative correlation between interpersonal adjustment and precautionary behaviors (p = .018). Additionally, Japanese sample was higher on overall precautionary behaviors (M = 29.00) vs. (M = 26.39); both samples nearly identical on Horizontal and Vertical Individualism and Collectivism scale (M = 53.90) vs (M = 53.58); and, American sample had more of an independent self-construal (M = 183.52) compared to the Japanese sample (M = 166.05).
Future directions include conducting this study again with samples from different countries (potentially India and Germany), especially ones more diametrically opposed in terms of individualism and collectivism, preforming similar studies with populations outside of college students, and expanding upon the questions concerning precautionary behavior, outside of a global pandemic, and the role that culture has in these behaviors.
Recently, Joey successfully defended his Master’s Thesis to the department. He will be graduating in April 2022 with a Master’s of Psychology. Congradulations! We look forward to what you will accomplish in the future.