Tightness shifts in the U.S. and China: Implications of tightening or loosening norms during the coronavirus pandemic

Quinnehtukqut MCLAMORE*, Stylianos SYROPOULOS, Mengyao LI, Ezra Fabian MENTRUP, Bernhard LEIDNER, Kevin YOUNG, Wai Lan Victoria YEUNG, Tasneem MOHAMMAD, Jennifer TAMKIN, Lam Ha NGYUEN, Julia BARACEWICZ

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12883
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number11
Early online date31 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the NSF for funding this research (RAPID Grant # 2028922).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • compliance
  • cross-cultural
  • government trust
  • norm-shifting
  • scientific trust
  • tightness-looseness
  • tightness-looseness shifting


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