As information about COVID-19 safety behavior changed, people had to judge how likely others were to protect themselves through mask-wearing and vaccination seeking. In a large, campus-wide survey, we assessed whether University of Kansas students viewed others’ protective behaviors as different from their own, how much students assumed others shared their beliefs and behaviors, and which individual differences were associated with those estimations. Participants in our survey (N = 1, 704; 81.04% white, 64.08% female) estimated how likely they and others were to have worn masks on the University of Kansas campus, have worn masks off-campus, and to seek a vaccine. They also completed measures of political preference, numeracy, and preferences for risk in various contexts. We found that participants estimated that others were less likely to engage in health safety behaviors than themselves, but that their estimations of others were widely shared. While, in general, participants saw themselves as more unique in terms of practicing COVID-19 preventative behaviors, more liberal participants saw themselves as more unique, while those that were more conservative saw their own behavior as more similar to others. At least for masking, this uniqueness was false—estimates of others’ health behavior were lower than their actual rates. Understanding this relationship could allow for more accurate norm-setting and normalization of mask-wearing and vaccination.
Adaryukov J, Grunevski S, Reed DD, Pleskac TJ (2022) I’m wearing a mask, but are they?: Perceptions of self-other differences in COVID-19 health behaviors. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0269625. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269625