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Why Even the Most Reasonable People You Know Are Bending Covid Safety Rules



What a timely fascinating article that applies Social Psychology research to the actions of others regarding the Covid safety protocols such as wearing a mask and socially distancing.  The article focuses on social situations wherein personal discomfort arises when others do not observe the safety rules, and thus puts a person in conflict as to whether to act and/or speak up about the perceived problem.   “Social forces have a strong hold on us and shape our choices even when we know better — sometimes even when we don’t actually want to be doing what we suddenly find ourselves doing.”   Applying the Psychology findings enables us to better understand ourselves and others in the social realm.   The article discusses many facets of Social Psychology which include: the classic Asch study on Conformity, studies by Latané and Darley, Culture and Connection, Pluralistic Ignorance, Leadership in social settings, and dealing with our own “instincts” to act or not in these uncomfortable situations.   

“Catherine Sanderson, PhD, a social psychologist at Amherst College and the author of Why We Act: Turning Bystanders Into Moral Rebels, states that “inaction breeds inaction.”  “The more people don’t speak up, the more it confirms to you that everyone is okay with it.” When we see others not wearing masks or not socially distancing but no one seems bothered, we are unlikely to do much about it, either.”  Sanderson writes a bi-weekly blog about social norms, the unwritten rules that shape our behavior. Visit her very well writing and interesting Norms Matter blog at

At the end of the informative article, the author provides solutions to break the conflict within ourselves in these uncomfortable social situations.   The article will bring a greater understanding and awareness through the use of Social Psychology research findings.



Elemental,  November 19, 2020, by Melinda Wenner Moyer




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•What is Social Psychology?  What do Social Psychologists study?  What differentiates Social Psychology from the other disciplines in the field?

•What is the Asch Conformity Study?   How is the data applied to the “Covid Safety Rules” situations mentioned in the article?

•What does Catherine Sanderson mean in the statement “inaction breeds inaction” ?

•Discuss two other findings in Social Psychology that can be applied to the “Covid Safety Rules” situations mentioned in the article.

•What are some possible solutions suggested to deal with the internal conflict in the situations discussed in the article?


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