Jump to content

Psychological entitlement predicts non-compliance with COVID-19 health guidelines, study finds


Recommended Posts



People with a greater sense of entitlement are less likely to comply with COVID-19 health guidelines, such as washing their hands more often and social distancing, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences.


The research found that those high in psychological entitlement were more likely to report contracting COVID-19, indicating that their non-compliance with health guidelines negatively impacts them.


“We initially became interested in this topic because we recognized the importance of motivating individuals to comply with the COVID-19 health guidelines to keep themselves and others healthy and reduce the virus’s spread,” said study author Rachel J. Schlund, a PhD student of organizational behavior at Cornell University.

“We realized that while many individuals were following the guidelines, many others were not. Reports in the news called out many individuals who choose to ignore the health guidelines, referring to these individuals as ‘entitled’. This led us to wonder if psychological entitlement – ‘a personality characteristic whereby an individual feels more deserving of positive outcomes than other people’ – might actually have something to do with why some individuals refuse to follow the COVID-19 guidelines.”


“In previous research, my adviser, Doctor Emily Zitek, demonstrated that feelings of psychological entitlement can lead others to fail to follow the rules, especially rules they perceive are unfair. And so we became interested in understanding if people higher in psychological entitlement are similarly less likely to follow the COVID-19 health guidelines,” Schlund said.


Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, the researchers surveyed 201 individuals from the United States on April 3, 2020 regarding their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The survey also included an assessment of entitlement, in which the participants indicated the degree to which the agreed with statements such as “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than others” and “People like me deserve an extra break now and then.”


“As we predicted, people higher in psychological entitlement reported less compliance with the COVID-19 health guidelines than people lower in psychological entitlement. For example, people higher in psychological entitlement were more likely to report that they would still attend parties if they felt like it, and that they were not engaging in social distancing, making efforts to wash their hands more, or even simply following the rules put in place by their state,” Schlund told PsyPost.

“Further, people higher in psychological entitlement were more likely to report that they believed the threat of the virus was overblown and that they were not very concerned about how ignoring the guidelines could negatively impact others, which may partially explain their noncompliance.”


Those higher in entitlement were more likely to report engaging in other health behaviors, such as using dental floss regularly and wearing sunscreen, suggesting that “refusal to follow health guidelines was specific to pandemic-related suggestions.”


The survey also asked the participants whether they thought they had had COVID-19. The researchers found that those higher in entitlement were more likely to report that they had contracted the virus. “Thus, it is possible that their refusal to follow the guidelines may have had negative consequences for them,” Schlund said.

A second survey of 502 participants conducted on May 1, 2020, replicated the findings.


In yet another survey conducted on July 15, 2020, with 301 participants, Schlund and her colleagues tried tapping into self-image concerns to increase compliance with pandemic guidelines.


But “appealing to self-image concerns of people who are higher in psychological entitlement by telling them that they would be viewed positively if they followed the guidelines (and negatively if they did not) did not increase compliance with the health guidelines,” Schlund explained. It actually decreased compliance among those high in entitlement, while increasing compliance for those low in entitlement.


“This is an important finding because it suggests that not all cues to action or messages to persuade individuals to follow the guidelines work uniformly for all people and may even produce the opposite effect for some,” Schlund told PsyPost.


“Our research also makes an important contribution to our understanding of psychological entitlement. In one of the most influential models of psychological entitlement, Grubbs and Exline (2016) propose that psychological entitlement can increase one’s vulnerability to psychological distress. We found that psychological entitlement can also increase one’s susceptibility to contracting a potentially severe illness. Thus, being entitled may pose detrimental effects both psychologically and physically.”


The study also uncovered some other relationships between attitudes and compliance with the COVID-19 health guidelines.


“In line with theory and other research, participants were more likely to comply with the COVID-19 guidelines if they thought the virus was serious, if they thought they were at a higher risk of getting sick, if they were less likely to think they could handle contracting the virus, and if they were more concerned about the impact of their actions on others,” Schlund said.


But, like all research, the new study includes some caveats. Schlund identified a few of the most important limitations:

“First, given the nature of our design, we cannot be sure of ‘the specificity of our results to psychological entitlement.’ Our results were robust after controlling for several alternative explanations; however, other variables might account for the relationship. Second our results were fully self-reported, and thus, we do not know if individuals were accurately reporting if they had contracted COVID-19. Third, our participants were all from the United States, and therefore our results do not generalize to other countries,” she said.


“Future research should examine if finding ways to address these beliefs (such as through education) could encourage more people to follow the guidelines, especially individuals who are high in psychological entitlement. Yet, in the meantime, the general public should be aware that some individuals, specifically, individuals with a higher sense of entitlement, are less likely to follow the guidelines. Thus, people should take precautionary measures,” Schlund added.


The study, “Psychological entitlement predicts noncompliance with the health guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic“, was authored by Emily M. Zitek and Rachel J. Schlund.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.