A study involving over 2000 online participants (US residents) tested a general framework regarding compliance with a directive in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study featured not only a self-report measure of social distancing but also virtual behavior measures-simulations that presented participants with graphical depictions mirroring multiple real-world scenarios and asked them to position themselves in relation to others in the scene. The conceptual framework highlights three essential components of a directive: (1) the source, some entity is advocating for a behavioral change; (2) the surrounding context, the directive is in response to some challenge; and (3) the target, the persons to whom the directive is addressed. Belief systems relevant to each of these three components are predicted, and were found, to relate to compliance with the social distancing directive. The implications of the findings for public service campaigns encouraging people to engage in social distancing are discussed.