Laura Mahady 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

MSc Candidate Psychological Science 2021 UCD // Crisis Volunteer @ 50808 // Social Media Officer @ PSI SAG // ABA Tutor

Project Description

In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, a rapidly generating field of research has developed investigating psychological and demographic correlates of compliance to precautionary measures. Research has indicated a relationship between temporary state empathy and compliance to Covid-19 precautionary measures. However, little research has examined the relationship between dispositional empathy and compliance to these measures. Furthermore, despite an emerging global body of research regarding demographic factors associated with compliance, compliance to these measures amongst the Irish population has been largely overlooked in psychological research.


Project Objectives

The aim of this study was to explore these two perceived gaps in the literature. A quantitative, within-groups, correlational design using a questionnaire-based online survey was employed to investigate the collective relationship between dispositional empathy, age, gender and compliance to Covid-19 precautionary measures in an Irish context. Data of 125 participants was analysed using inferential statistics.


Project Outcomes

The study highlighted two considerable findings. Primarily, that age and gender, specifically, being female and older, appear to predict compliance with Covid-19 precautionary measures. Furthermore, despite a significant correlation between dispositional empathy and compliance, dispositional empathy did directly predict compliance when demographic factors were accounted for. The results may be applied to inform government policy and public health messaging regarding Covid-19. As dispositional empathy does not directly predict compliance with Covid-19 precautionary measures in an Irish context, appealing to the Irish populations sense of empathy may not be adequate to motivate sustained compliance among the entire population. Perhaps future public health messaging may emphasise benefits for both the compliant citizen and society on a whole, rather than altruistic messages. This study also reveals specific groups at risk of non-compliance; males and younger adults. Public health authorities may benefit from focusing on encouraging compliance in these particular groups. It is important to note that the study utilised a correlational design and does not provide concrete causal evidence, but simply highlights relationships. Nevertheless, this research provides insight regarding Covid-19 and future potential disease outbreaks in Ireland. In order to extend the current findings, longitudinal research could examine factors related to compliance over a longer period of time, and identify any developments in these relationships. This study won the overall undergraduate prize at the Northern Ireland Branch of the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference 2021.


Thesis Title

Correlates of Compliance to Covid-19 Precautionary Measures: Empathy, Age and Gender