Double standards in the COVID-19 pandemic: The moderation of perceived threat

Eur J Soc Psychol. 2022 Apr;52(3):515-527. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2834. Epub 2022 May 19.


This research explored whether people hold double standards in a public crisis. We proposed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people required others to strictly follow self-quarantine rules and other preventive behaviours, whereas they themselves would not, demonstrating double standards. Moreover, this effect would be moderated by the perceived threat from the pandemic. Using data collected in the United States and China, three studies (N = 2180) tested the hypotheses by measuring (Study 1) and manipulating the perceived threat (Studies 2 and 3). We found that people generally applied higher standards to others than to themselves when it came to following the self-quarantine rules. This effect was strong when a relatively low threat was perceived, but the self-other difference disappeared when the perceived threat was relatively high, as the demands they placed on themselves would increase as the perceived threat intensified, but their requirements of others would be constantly strict.

Keywords: COVID‐19; double standards; pandemic; quarantine; threat.