Do Ontario residents search for loopholes in COVID-19 rules?

A University of Waterloo study may help in the battle against the spread of fake news and other falsehoods. Ahmad Fareed Khan / Global News

It seems like new rules are constantly being placed upon us as we wade further through the COVID-19 pandemic, which always seems to lead to arguments over what the rules constitute, or to people looking for ways around them.

It seems irresistible to look for a way around them for some people, so is simply in their nature to do so?

A psychology professor at the University of Waterloo thinks this might be the case.

Read more: Ontario government reports 945 new coronavirus cases, 18 new deaths

“I think it is human nature to perceive the end as justifying the means,” Prof. Christine Purdon, a retired psychologist, said in a release.

“It is very easy to tell ourselves that breaking a rule will have very minor, if any consequences (e.g., helping a family member skip the queue for vaccination) and will have important payoffs (being able to see a loved one in a care home). “

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She was asked why people don’t always follow the rules and said it is in part because people don’t always support them.

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“Some people mistrust the rules, some people feel the rules are too strict, and others think that following the rules causes more harm than following them saves,” she explained.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Working out around Ontario’s rules' Coronavirus: Working out around Ontario’s rules
Coronavirus: Working out around Ontario’s rules – Jan 26, 2021

Purdon also says that some people might rationalize ways to skirt the rules such as going to a cottage rather than staying at home.

“They may tell themselves that they can still follow the spirit of the rules by not stopping on the way to the cottage and bringing all of their groceries with them, so they won’t be in contact with anyone,” Purdon explained.

“What they may be overlooking is that the probability of not needing to stop either to or from the cottage is low, and that the probability of needing something from a store is high — we all forget something important, like milk or bread, and when we get to the cottage, we may find we need a new shovel, or ice melt.”

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She says aside from punishments, the best way for the government to get people to toe the line is leadership by example and with consistent messaging.

“No one in a leadership position — particularly in areas of public health and government — should be breaking the rules,” Purdon said.

“Second, government can give clear, consistent messages about the rules — not doing things like making a rule but then declining to impose the stated fines for breaking them.”

She also offered that the government should provide hopeful messages while also pointing to the importance of following the rules.

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