How our personalities, early life experiences shape COVID-19 risk decisions

An individual's comfort level with taking risks — which is shaped by genetics and early life experiences — affects the extent to which they exercise COVID-19 precautions more than politics or geography, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 19.

A PLOS One study published in May looked at 404 U.S. adults' risk-taking behavior. It found that how they perceive risks, whether they make risky decisions and their preference for immediate or delayed rewards were the largest predictors of whether they followed COVID-19 safety measures, with these factors accounting for a 55 percent difference in people’s behaviors.

Those three factors all had more of an effect than people's age, political affiliation or education level.

A different PLOS One study, published in October 2020, also found being extroverted or introverted plays a part in how people exercise COVID-19 precautions. The study examined 8,500 people, finding that those who scored highly on an extraversion scale were 7 percent less likely to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The study also found people who scored highly on a scale measuring conscientiousness — the value of hard work and achievement — were 31 percent more likely to exercise COVID-19 safety measures.


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