People Who Follow Social Distancing May Be More Intelligent, Study Finds

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The term “covidiots” hasn’t sprung out of nowhere, it seems! We are constantly seeing reports of people not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, whether it is people in Delhi hosting a secret party at a nightclub called ‘Playgue’ or a man traveling across cities concealing a COVID+ report in his pocket. We might finally know the reason why people are still flouting safety norms in the face of danger.

As per a report in Fast Company, a new study indicates that people who comply with social distancing guidelines have better working memory capacity than those who do not adhere to the norms. This study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A person’s working memory capacity tells how much information they can store for the short-term, which in turn determines mental capacities such as intelligence.

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The research was carried out on 850 participants during the month of March. The participants filled out questionnaires on social distancing practices and demographics. They also completed testing on personality and cognitive capacity.

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It was found that there is a strong correlation between working memory and an awareness of the benefits of social distancing behavior, so much so that a person’s working memory can predict their behavior in the face of the pandemic.

“Interestingly, this relationship holds even after we statistically control for relevant psychological and socioeconomic factors such as depressed and anxious moods, personality traits, education, intelligence, and income,” explains Weiwei Zhang, the paper’s senior author. He is also an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside.

He adds, “This suggests policymakers will need to consider individuals’ general cognitive abilities when promoting compliance behaviors such as wearing a mask or engaging in physical distancing.”

It is also important to note that this study’s aim is to not IQ-shame people. The research seeks to find out why some individuals do not comply with social distancing norms, which will help make strategies to further improve overall social distancing adherence.

Know someone who doesn’t wear masks or social distance? Now you know why.

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