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The psychological reason some coronavirus orders aren't being followed

While Gov. Janet Mills' 'stay-at-home' order is in place, people are still often going out and about. Psychologists call this 'psychological reactance.'

MAINE, USA — As we get used to our 'new normal' many of us have a lot of things we need to change. For example, heading to the beach or park. But now, some beaches and trails are closed. 

Psychologists call this feeling of frustration "psychological reactance."

"It's like when you're dealing with a child and you say you have to brush your teeth do you want the yellow toothbrush or the pink toothbrush? So you have a choice but you don't have a choice on if you have to brush your teeth," Dr. Christine Selby said.

She says in situations like we are currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic, people don't always want to follow the rules.

"If they feel like their freedom in any way is threatened... it's essentially rebelling," she said.

Let's go back in time two weeks. We are already being told not to gather in large groups. Yet still at Popham Beach in Phippsburg, large groups were enjoying the nice weather.

"There are a lot of people here," one beach goer said. "Hopefully people are being smart," another added.

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Maybe not smart enough. Now, many beaches and parks have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic because people who were visiting them were not properly social distancing.

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Dr. Selby said psychological reactance is a lot more common in a country like the United States because we have so much freedom. She added that a group of psychologists is looking at how it might be related to COVID-19.

"Is there a difference in terms of how we communicate this information to get people to essentially follow the rules," she said.

Dr. Selby and others are not saying to stay inside but recommend giving yourself options. For example, if there are more than three cars in the parking lot at any given park, maybe go back another time.

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: coronavirus

NEWS CENTER Maine Coronavirus Coverage

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