Why Social Epidemics Sometimes Spread More Slowly in Collectivist Societies

Psychologists have always assumed that social trends spread more quickly in societies that emphasize people’s interdependence and de-emphasize individualism, but sometimes the opposite can happen. Sweden, a country whose culture emphasizes collectivism, was about a decade behind the U.S. (a highly individualistic society) in reaching a peak proportion of smokers in the population (30%). That’s because in collectivist societies, “social inertia” can inhibit the spread of socially contagious phenomena, the researchers say.

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