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August 25, 2020 -- A study conducted in Brazil -- the nation with the second-most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world -- found that people with sociopathic traits were less likely to follow safety measures designed to curb the virus, such as face mask wearing.

“Our findings indicated that antisocial traits, especially lower levels of empathy and higher levels of Callousness, Deceitfulness, and Risk-taking, are directly associated with lower compliance with containment measures,” said the study published in the online journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“These traits explain, at least partially, the reason why people continue not adhering to the containment measures even with increasing numbers of cases and deaths.”

People who tested for high levels of empathy were more likely to follow coronavirus safety measures, the study said.

Researchers said 1,578 adults in Brazil took a test between May 21 and June 29 to assess their “maladaptive personality traits,” as well as their attitude toward COVID-19 safety measures. The test included 220 questions answered on a 4-point scale.

The study says that the high number of COVID-19 cases in Brazil is probably related to the government’s opposition to containment measures recommended by the World Health Organization and other health agencies. Those groups stress the need for mask wearing and social distancing.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic. At times he has urged citizens to ignore social distancing guidelines and has called reports of deaths and rising numbers of cases a media trick.

When he tested positive for COVID-19 himself, Bolsonaro said, “There’s no reason for fear. That’s life, Life goes on.”

The study says the findings about personality traits in Brazil are similar to other studies in other nations, but goes on to say this was the first study related to “containment measures and antisocial traits to be conducted in a large Latin American sample using a repeated cross-sectional design.”

Brazil has reported 3.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 114,000 deaths – second only to the United States.

Show Sources

Personality and Individual Differences. “Compliance with containment measures to the COVID-19 pandemic over time: Do antisocial traits matter?”

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