Background and objectives The behavioural immune system (BIS) is a motivational system that facilitates the avoidance of pathogens and is thought to have evolved as a less costly mechanism to combat infectious diseases compared to the physiological immune system. The Parasite Stress Theory of Social Values predicts that authoritarianism and collectivist attitudes may impact the BIS by predisposing people to support disease control measures, including severe restrictions like lockdowns or stay-at-home orders. This study investigates the relationship between authoritarianism, collectivism and Covid-19 worry on support for lockdown measures during the Covid-19 pandemic. Methodology A total of 187 UK participants were recruited to complete an online survey, which was administered between 22 June and 7 July 2020. The survey included measures of authoritarianism, collectivism, Covid-19 worry and support for lockdown measures. The data were analysed using moderated parallel mediation analysis. Results Covid-19 worry had a direct effect on support for and enforcement of lockdown measures, but not on the idea that adherence to lockdown rules should be an individual choice. The relationship between Covid Worry and Support for and Enforcement of lockdown measures was not mediated by authoritarianism, nor was it moderated by Collectivism. Collectivism and Authoritarianism were related to increased levels of support for lockdown independently from Covid Worry but were not related to enforcement. Conclusions and implications Support for lockdown restrictions and enforcement was mainly associated with covid worry. Our findings do not support the parasite stress theory of social values and indicate that the BIS manifested in a more direct way, and not through social values.


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van Diepenbeek, F. & Kessler, S. 2023, 'The role of the behavioural immune system on covid-19 lockdown attitudes: The relationship with authoritarianism and collectivism', Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 11(1), pp. 502-515. https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eoad037

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Last updated: 18 March 2024
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