Cooperation and Trust Across Societies During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Angelo Romano, Giuliana Spadaro, Daniel Balliet, Jeff Joireman, Caspar J. van Lissa, Shuxian Jin, Maximilian Agostini, Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Ben Gützkow, Jannis Kreienkamp, Mioara Cristea, Pontus Leander, PsyCorona Team

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
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Cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust among strangers in the provision of public goods may be key to understanding how societies are managing the COVID-19 pandemic. We report a survey conducted across 41 societies between March and May 2020 (N = 34,526), and test pre-registered hypotheses about how cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust relate to prosocial COVID-19 responses (e.g., social distancing), stringency of policies, and support for behavioral regulations (e.g., mandatory quarantine). We further tested whether cross-societal variation in institutions and ecologies theorized to impact cooperation were associated with prosocial COVID-19 responses, including institutional quality, religiosity, and historical prevalence of pathogens. We found substantial variation across societies in prosocial COVID-19 responses, stringency of policies, and support for behavioral regulations. However, we found no consistent evidence to support the idea that cross-societal variation in cooperation and trust among strangers is associated with these outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These results were replicated with another independent cross-cultural COVID-19 dataset (N = 112,136), and in both snowball and representative samples. We discuss implications of our results, including challenging the assumption that managing the COVID-19 pandemic across societies is best modeled as a public goods dilemma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-642
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date13 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • COVID-19
  • cooperation
  • culture
  • institutions
  • social dilemmas
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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