Emergent research identifies cultural tightness-looseness as an important factor for understanding cross-national outcome differences during the coronavirus pandemic. Because perceived tightness-looseness can be measured as an individual-level difference rather than a nation-level difference, and because tightness-looseness may shift during large-scale crises, we investigated whether such shifts occurred early in the coronavirus pandemic in both China (a relatively tight nation, n = 3642) and the U.S. (a relatively loose nation, n = 3583) across three cohorts. Tightness increased across cohorts in China and reduced across cohorts in the U.S. These changes transmitted corresponding indirect effects whereby compliance and institutional trust (scientific and government) about the pandemic were increased in China across cohorts, but decreased in the U.S. across cohorts. These patterns extend advice that national governments can increase compliance and trust via “tightening” by cautioning against norm-setters signaling the reverse (that norms about compliance are loose) given the outcomes observed in the U.S. samples.
The authors are grateful to the NSF for funding this research (RAPID Grant # 2028922).
© 2023 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- government trust
- scientific trust
- tightness-looseness shifting