Aron Szekely’s article published in Nature Communications

We are proud to announce that the article “Changes in social norms during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic across 43 countries”, jointly led by our AP Aron Szekely, has just appeared in Nature Communications, a top multidisciplinary journal.

The article presents findings from a global study carried out by 82 researchers, coordinated by Aron Szekely and Giulia Andrighetto (National Research Council of Italy), who investigated how social norms changed in response to disease threat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drawing on the influential tightness-looseness theory, which proposes that societies become “tighter” or more normatively constrained when exposed to threats such as earthquakes, disease, wars, or famine, the team anticipated that social norms would tighten after the pandemic emergence. To test this, they created a dataset combining pre-pandemic social norm data with new data that they collected from nearly 15,000 people worldwide during the early months of the pandemic.

Contrary to expectations, the study found that overall social norms did not tighten significantly. Instead, norms related to disease threat, particularly handwashing, strengthened noticeably. The results suggest that in the initial stages of the pandemic, norms directly linked to the threat changed rapidly, while broader social norms took longer to adapt. The study contributes to understanding social norm changes, offering insights for anticipating and addressing similar crises in the future.

Read the paper