Editor's Pick - October 2022



Crowding perception predicts subway passengers’ behavioral decision making during COVID-19 via risk awareness and safety perception
Yang Cao (Shanghai Institute of Technology), Mousheng Song (Shanghai Institute of Technology), 2022, 50(1), e10947


In September 2022, as part of the COVID-19 response, the New Zealand government dropped most mask-wearing requirements in this country, outside of healthcare settings. This followed decisions in many other countries–some much earlier–to do the same and remove mask mandates from their active protections against COVID-19.1 Many removed the mask requirement from public transport, as has New Zealand. These changes have created an interesting situation, where most members of the public are relieved to be free of the masks and are also now personally responsible for their behavioral decision making around risk and safety.

For that reason, this recent paper by Cao and Song (2022) jumped out at me, as it addresses some of the fundamental perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors involved in decision making about COVID-19 safety and risks. The authors examined the attitudes and decision making of roughly 300 participants, who were all considering their use of the subway in Hangzhou or Ningbo, China, during the pandemic. They discovered that awareness of risk and safety perception both impacted people’s decisions to avoid overcrowding on the subway.

Whereas an initial perception of crowding wasn't directly connected with avoidance of crowding, 1) awareness of risk in the environment (e.g., “I think the subway has the risk of spreading the pandemic”) and 2) safety perception (e.g., “The passenger capacity of the subway made me feel at ease”) both helped to explain the mechanism of subway passengers’ safety decision making.

Some practical suggestions by Cao and Song were to encourage passengers to be personally aware of the risks of overcrowding and to increase public safety awareness within the public transportation system. These ideas seem relevant to the current situation here in New Zealand, as personal responsibility comes to the fore, and we each make important decisions about how we protect ourselves and our loved ones.

1RNZ. (2020, September 12). Mask mandates: How have other countries fared after dropping requirements? https://bit.ly/3RuV5EY
Alex Cheyne | Managing Editor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal