Despite the very real threat of contracting coronavirus, and eventually ending up spreading it as well, there have been consistent reports worldwide of people refusing to follow the bare minimum required to stem the spread. In fact, in the US, there are entire movements geared towards not wearing masks and not following social distancing.

Now, a study on the psychology of pandemic behaviors has found that people who ignore social distancing rules may have psychopathic personality traits.

The preprint study, which will be published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, looked at how people’s personality traits could influence whether they go along with coronavirus pandemic health guidelines or not. 502 people had to answer a range of questions that evaluated their personalities.


If participants answered questions in a manner that suggested they had high levels of neuroticism, tendency to take risks, meanness, and lack of restraint, then they were less likely to follow health guidelines.

Pavel Blagov, the author of the study, said these traits are also common psychopathic traits. While the majority of survey participants said they followed coronavirus health guidelines, those who scored high on traits like meanness and lack of restraint also said they didn’t follow social distancing and hygiene practices like hand-washing. The implication of this is that there may be a subsection of people with particular personality styles (on the narcissism and psychopathy spectrum) that have an adverse impact on the pandemic.

Pew Research

However, correlation does not signify causation, and as such it is not a guarantee that the results of this test are 100% accurate. It is extremely probable that the disease is spread by others as well.