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Risk, Obligation, and Public Noncompliance with Mobility Directives in China during the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Chunhui Zheng

    (School of Management, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China)

  • Jia Zhang

    (School of Management, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China)

  • Lili Qian

    (International School of Cultural Tourism, Zhejiang University City College, Hangzhou 310015, China)

  • Yuling Zhang

    (Department of Tourism, Foshan University, Guangzhou 528051, China)


Human mobility greatly increases the risk of epidemic transmission. This study examines the psychological mechanism of individuals’ noncompliance with public health directives and their choice to travel amidst threats through two rounds of surveys (N = 1473 in total) in China at different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This research revealed the relative strength of the motivating and impeding factors that determined behavioral intention. In subtle internal conflicts, maladaptive responses (e.g., wishful thinking, denial, fatalism) were identified as a significant factor in negotiating risk-related constraints and encouraging risky travel behavior. Interestingly, both those who traveled amidst threats and those who did not travel agreed that they had social obligations for epidemic prevention. The results demonstrated that obligation could have an indirect negative impact on behavioral intention only via attitude. By unveiling the psychological mechanism of individuals’ noncompliance with health directives and travel during the pandemic, this study can aid in the development of appropriate operational strategies to manage population mobility during crises.

Suggested Citation

  • Chunhui Zheng & Jia Zhang & Lili Qian & Yuling Zhang, 2022. "Risk, Obligation, and Public Noncompliance with Mobility Directives in China during the COVID-19 Pandemic," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(18), pages 1-20, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jijerp:v:19:y:2022:i:18:p:11505-:d:913801

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    References listed on IDEAS

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