Predicting Social Distancing Intention and Behavior During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Integrated Social Cognition Model

Martin S. Hagger, Stephanie R. Smith, Jacob J. Keech, Susette A. Moyers, Kyra Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Social distancing is a key behavior to minimize COVID-19 infections. Identification of potentially modifiable determinants of social distancing behavior may provide essential evidence to inform social distancing behavioral interventions. PURPOSE: The current study applied an integrated social cognition model to identify the determinants of social distancing behavior, and the processes involved, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: In a prospective correlational survey study, samples of Australian (N = 365) and U.S. (N = 440) residents completed online self-report measures of social cognition constructs (attitude, subjective norm, moral norm, anticipated regret, and perceived behavioral control [PBC]), intention, action planning, habit, and past behavior with respect to social distancing behavior at an initial occasion. Follow-up measures of habit and social distancing behavior were taken 1 week later. RESULTS: Structural equation models indicated that subjective norm, moral norm, and PBC were consistent predictors of intention in both samples. Intention, action planning, and habit at follow-up were consistent predictors of social distancing behavior in both samples. Action planning did not have consistent effects mediating or moderating the intention-behavior relationship. Inclusion of past behavior in the model attenuated effects among constructs, although the effects of the determinants of intention and behavior remained. CONCLUSIONS: Current findings highlight the importance of subjective norm, moral obligation, and PBC as determinants of social distancing intention and intention and habit as behavioral determinants. Future research on long-range predictors of social distancing behavior and reciprocal effects in the integrated model is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-727
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine
Volume54
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Action planning
  • Dual-phase models
  • Dual-process models
  • Habit
  • Health behavior
  • Social cognition theory

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