Blinded by trust in close others: Examining the effect of social closeness on cooperative behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic

Éloïse Côté, Anna Dorfman, Éric Lacourse, Jean Marc Lina, Mathieu Pelletier-Dumas, Dietlind Stolle, Roxane de la Sablonnière

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In the context of public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that individuals cooperate by complying with preventive measures (e.g., wearing a mask). The current research examines how high trust in close others is linked to less cooperation—that is, less compliance with measures—and thus, undermines collective interests. Specifically, we test whether individuals are less willing to comply with preventive measures when interacting with close others they trust. We conducted two experiments in which participants read a vignette depicting a social interaction with either close others (e.g., family) or strangers. Participants had to report the extent to which they would (1) trust the other people in the situation and (2) comply with the mask wearing and physical distancing measures during this interaction. In both experiments, we find that when individuals are considering an interaction with close others, they report experiencing higher trust which is then linked to lower compliance with preventive measures. In Experiment 2, we further demonstrate that participants report less compliance with preventive measures around close others, even when they perceive non-compliance with the measures as morally “wrong”. Our findings shed light on the challenges that compliance with preventive measures poses during social interactions in a context of high trust.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12826
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Social and Personality Psychology Compass published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


We would like to thank the members of the Social Change, Adaptation and Well‐Being Laboratory of the University of Montreal for their help, especially Mathieu Caron‐Diotte. We would also like to thank the participants of the studies for providing their time to answer the surveys. Finally, we would like to thank the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for their financial support. This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [2020]. All (anonymized) data from Experiment 2 and study materials from Experiments 1 and 2 are available at Open Science Framework online ( ).

FundersFunder number
Canadian Institutes of Health Research


    • COVID-19 pandemic
    • compliance
    • moralization
    • preventive measures
    • trust


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