New research from Brazil has found that people who are unconcerned with adhering to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 tend to display higher levels of traits associated with antisocial personality disorder, also known as sociopathy. The findings have been published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
On March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS‐CoV‐2 to be a global pandemic. Governments around the world urged people to follow preventive health measures such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing.
“It is noticeable that compliance with containment measures varies greatly between people,” said the authors of the new study. “This is at least partially connected with psychological factors such as personality traits.”
“To our knowledge, this is the first study focused on COVID-19 compliance with the containment measures and antisocial traits to be conducted in a large Latin American sample using a repeated cross-sectional design.”
In the online study, 1,578 Brazilian adults completed a measure of maladaptive personality traits between May 21 and June 29, 2020. They also completed assessments of empathy and compliance with COVID-19 containment measures.
The researchers found that those who scored higher on measures of callousness, deceitfulness, hostility, impulsivity, manipulativeness, and risk-taking tended to be less compliant with COVID-19 containment measures, such as socially distancing, washing hands frequently, and wearing a facemask in public. Participants with greater empathy, on the other hand, tended to be more compliant with COVID-19 containment measures.
“Our findings indicated that antisocial traits, especially lower levels of empathy and higher levels of Callousness and Risk-taking, are directly associated with compliance with containment measures. These traits explain, at least partially, the reason why people continue not adhering to the containment measures even with the increasing numbers of cases and deaths,” the researchers said.
“Exposing oneself and others to risk, even when it can be avoided, is a typical trait for people with antisocial tendencies, and with low levels of empathy.”
The new findings are in line with previous research conducted in the United States and Poland, which also found that antisocial personality traits were associated with ignoring preventative measures meant to halt the spread of COVID-19.
“Our findings can be useful for public health policies, e.g., through screenings that demonstrate an elevation in these traits, interventions can be carried out aiming at greater awareness and consequent compliance with containment measures. We suggest that further studies be carried out investigating the interaction of these traits with other variables,” said the authors of the new research.
The study, “Compliance with containment measures to the COVID-19 pandemic over time: Do antisocial traits matter?“, was authored by Fabiano Koich Miguel, Gisele Magarotto Machado, Giselle Pianowski, and Lucasde Francisco Carvalho.