The temporal dynamics of variables related to compliance with behavioral measures during the COVID-19 pandemic


In a recent study published in the British Journal of Social Psychologyresearchers assessed changes in accordance with behavioral measures over time during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Study: How compliance with behavioral measures during the initial phase of a pandemic develops over time: A longitudinal COVID-19 study. Image Credit: STEKLO/Shutterstock


Since vaccines were not available during the early stages of a pandemic, adhering to behavioral strategies such as social withdrawal and isolation is often seen as crucial to stopping viral transmission. Most people reported following behavioral measures, although there is still plenty of room for improvement. To increase society’s ability to understand, predict and promote adherence during epidemics, a better understanding of the factors that influence adherence is therefore needed.

About the study

In the present study, researchers examined the temporal dynamics of factors related to compliance with behavioral measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Dutch online survey was used to acquire the data for this longitudinal study. The critical constructs for the study were determined before creating a survey containing items based on those components. Wave 1, which included all participants who completed the first survey, provided the largest and most diverse sample for node creation analysis. The construction of psychological variables as nodes via predetermined element combinations or the results of a reduction approach was carried out to identify the data components.

To provide a self-reported indicator of compliance, the team looked at how well participants adopted protective behaviors recommended to the general public (such as physical distancing and hygiene practices). Due to changes in suggested preventative measures, the elements that make up this node varied throughout the study. The multicomponent attitude model, which included cognitive, affective, and behavioral components, was followed to measure attitudes. Elements of the cognitive attitude nodes of COVID-19 psychological networks, such as risk perception, health risk, and economic consequences, were derived from previous studies.

Two items on judgments of possibility and severity of contracting the coronavirus were used to assess risk perception. The result of these two components was the perception of risk. Health risk refers to the potential health effects resulting from infection and the node. Self-exemption beliefs looked at the belief that one was immune to coronavirus infection. The Negative Affect and Compassion nodes were created following items assessing pandemic-related effects. Two nodes were also produced by Worries-related items: Worries Virus and Worries Actions, which respectively express concerns about pandemic events caused directly by the coronavirus and events caused by measures adopted as a result of the virus.


The results of the study highlighted contemporaneous effects that showed which nodes predicted other nodes in the same survey of a wave, while temporal effects showed which nodes predicted other nodes over a period of two to three weeks. In the COVID-19 time network, the most trusted nodes were Healthy Lifestyle, Measures Support, Compliance, and Vaccination Intention.

After adjusting for the impacts of all other nodes in the network, the results for nodes associated with compliance revealed bidirectional associations between compliance and many other network variables. Measures of involvement, support, social norm, vaccination intention, and worry virus all predicted adherence. Additionally, compliance affected social norms, supportive measures, involvement, a worry virus, and intention to get vaccinated.

Compliance nodes showed that changes in compliance with behavioral measures were predicted by level of support for behavioral measures, mental involvement in the COVID-19 pandemic, perception of social norms related to compliance, intention to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the level of anxiety related to the virus. The Worries nodes showed that a person’s perceived social norms related to compliance, support for behavioral measures, mental involvement in the pandemic, worries due to the virus, and intention to get vaccinated against COVID- 19 were all predictive of a person’s change in compliance. with behavioral measures.

The relationship between depressive complaints, anxiety complaints and loneliness was found to represent another intriguing pattern in the temporal network. Anxiety complaints and loneliness were predicted by depressive complaints, while depressive complaints were predicted by anxiety complaints and loneliness. However, the differences between loneliness and anxiety complaints were not very significant. This trend implied that depressive complaints played an important role in the incidence of anxiety complaints and loneliness.

The results for edges related to Compliance are equivalent at the temporal level. Notably, support for measures, social norm, and involvement had the strongest benefits with compliance. These edges suggest that people are more likely to support policies, adherence to social norms, and involvement in the pandemic when they report conforming to them. This implies that behavioral compliance dynamics are similar between estimated measures over time and within measures, as well as impacts in the temporal network.


Overall, the study results demonstrated the added benefit of using a complex approach to compliance in pandemic-related situations. In addition, the approach chosen in this study has led to a better understanding of the unique relationships between a large number of factors, as well as how these relationships change over time.

Journal reference:

  • Chambon, M., Dalege, J., Borsboom, D., Waldorp, LJ, van der Maas, HLJ and van Harreveld, F. (2022).
    How compliance with behavioral measures during the initial phase of a pandemic develops over time: A COVID-19 longitudinal study.
    British Journal of Social Psychology, 00, 1–20. do I:


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