Psychology behind non-compliance of mask-wearing

Published Oct 30, 2020


CAPE TOWN - Scientists in Brazil believe those refusing to wear face masks in public suffer from antisocial personality traits with a survey aiming to understand more on the compliance of containment laws of Covid-19.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues with many countries facing a second wave of infections, basic compliance of protection and transmission measures such as mask-wearing and frequent hand washing has decreased, and although a large percentage may be due to 'pandemic fatigue', researchers in Brazil believe those who refuse to wear masks in public may have strong links to antisocial personality traits.

The researchers conducted their investigation via a questionnaire consisting of 1578 Brazilian participants aged between 18–73 years. With the answered questions the researchers developed a profile analyses between antisocial traits and compliance with COVID-19 containment measures to analyse traits and behaviours to develop profiles.

One profile was the antisocial pattern profile which calculated higher scores in behaviours such as Callousness, Deceitfulness, Hostility, Impulsivity, Irresponsibility, Manipulativeness, and Risk-taking and the second profile being the empathy pattern profile calculating 'Affective resonance' which is social interaction with an awareness of actions and consequences.

“Through screenings that demonstrate an elevation in these traits, interventions can be carried out aiming at greater awareness and consequent compliance with containment measures”, said the team of researchers.

The findings indicated that antisocial traits, especially lower levels of empathy and higher levels of Callousness, Deceitfulness, and Risk-taking, are directly associated with lower compliance with containment measures. These traits explain, at least partially, the reason why people continue not adhering to the containment measures even with increasing numbers of cases and deaths said the author of the study.

The team said, “Our findings were in the hypothesised direction, suggesting that adherence to containment measures is more challenging to people with a pattern of antisociality in comparison to those who have an empathy pattern."

Researchers acknowledge that their findings cannot represent the entire Brazilian population but believe it may be used as a model for interventions to combat the spread of Covid-19.

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