The Psychological Determinants of Avoiding Crowded Areas: An International and Political Investigation


  • Lucas Heiki Matsunaga
  • Daniel Aldrich
  • Cristiane Faiad
  • Toshiaki Aoki
  • Po-Hsing Tseng
  • Jun Aida


Social isolation is one of the most important measures to reduce clusters of infections. This research aims to explain why people avoided crowded spaces during periods of high global infection of COVID-19 in a cross-national and politically diverse sample. We conducted a cross-cultural survey using Likert-type scale questions (N = 1,196) in New York (n = 313), Brasilia (n = 283), Tokyo (n = 300), and Taipei (n = 300). We ascertained the validity of a model based on the theory of planned behavior, moral norms, and risk perception while analyzing invariance in its estimates and differences in the component`s mean scores across cultures and political groups. The results showed that the data fit the model well, and we found significant differences across countries by comparing the components` mean scores and estimates. Finally, diverging political views generated contrasting scores in the most politically polarized cultures. This study thus shows how the act of avoiding crowded places is shaped by social-cognitive determinants, cultural background, and political views. These insights are relevant for the formulation of better public health policies. It also calls for the academic community to build an integrative research agenda over psychological phenomena based on social factors and calls for the need for behavioral management in pandemics.