Lockdown is a measure taken to protect people from a risk. In the case of a pandemic, a lockdown is necessary to reduce the numbers of people being exposed to a dangerous virus.
Of course, there are other factors that need to be taken into account when making people stay in their homes for an extended period. A huge factor is health; physical and mental. Getting out and about is great for physical and mental wellbeing, so lockdown rules must allow some leeway for outdoor exercise.
This is why the government originally passed the 'one exercise per day' rule and have since allowed people to drive to places like parks and beaches, as long as they stay 2m away from others. But, as always with humans, the government have given an inch and people have taken a mile... or more accurately, a marathon.
Recently, beaches and other hotspots have been absolutely packed, with very little respect for the 2m rule. This has left many key workers, especially NHS staff, feeling as though their hard work and sacrifice is all for nothing.
So why are the beaches so packed despite the remaining risk?!
Humans may be complex, but most human behaviour can be explained by simple psychological theories. While everyone on the beach won't have the same reason for being there, they are all influenced by a similar thought pattern.
Diffusion of responsibility
Diffusion of responsibility is a phenomenon where a person is less likely to take responsibility for an action (or inaction) when others a present. In the context of the busy beaches, many of those there will be subconsciously the other beach-goers rather than themselves. In their mind, they have the right to be there but their action has only been made irresponsible by everybody else there. If the beach was empty, there would be no problem, therefore it's everybody else's fault.
People who are still attending busy beaches are often guilty of hypocrisy. This is where they will be judging others for an action, while breaking the same moral themselves. This is also true for people judging those at the beach while going to meet family members outside their household or having picnics in busy parks.
Hypocrisy occurs because, as much as we don't like to admit it, we are a very self-interested species. We find it much easier to rationalise our own actions, rather than other peoples. This usually leads on from the 'principal of least effort', where we tend to choose whichever option requires the least work.
For example. a single mother with 4 children going to the beach may rationalise her actions because her children are bored and she has no support from an additional parent and the principal of least effort is to give in and take her children to the beach. Alongside this, she may be judging young couples or university students who choose to go to the beach because they have less reason to than her.
Breaking the Rules
While being at the beach is not breaking new rules, the act of wavering your right to be there when it is clearly overcrowded or meeting with people outside of your household is breaking the rules. There are many psychological reasons which cause people to break rules which have been laid out:
They are inconvenient: When rules get in the way of day-to-day living, people are more likely to break them. In the context of coronavirus, this is completely new territory for people so the necessary rules are naturally interfering with most aspects of life. The inconvenience leads to people becoming more tempted to break the rules.
Lack of self-discipline: Those who struggle with self-discipline are generally more likely to break rules. When life becomes so disrupted by new rules, people lacking self-discipline will find it easier to slip into old habits, which are against new rules.
Feel they can avoid consequences: The main threat of rules is the punishment for breaking them. While the lockdown rules have punishments, in the form of fines, they are very difficult to enforce if there are too many people not following them. When people feel less threatened by consequences they will feel more comfortable breaking the rules.
Jumping on the bandwagon: When you see other people breaking rules, it's much easier to justify doing so yourself. It's an 'if they can, why can't I?' kind of attitude, rather than just accepting that others are in the wrong and continuing to do the right thing yourself.
Thinking they're superior: Some people are under the impression that some rules aren't made for them. They think that the rules are made for people who are less competent than them and that they are smart enough to adjust the rules as they see fit.
Just remember that just because you're officially allowed to go to the beach if it's not possible to keep a 2m distance from those outside of your household, go somewhere else. Of course, we all want to be spending time out of the house, but if we all stayed locally and turned away from overcrowded places, the outdoors would be a much safer place. Respect the ongoing work of keyworkers and play a part in controlling the spread of coronavirus!