The Psychology Behind Wearing Masks

Aug 5, 2020

The CDC recommends wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Still, some people remain averse to wearing them.

It comes down to free will.

That’s according to Brad Sagarin, a professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University.

LISTEN: Sagarin talks more about mask wearing on The 21st.

“I think a lot of that resistance can come from this almost reflexive response, that if you tell me what to do, I’m going to say no. I’m going to assert my freedom and assert my choice," Sagarin said.

He said in some cases masks have also come to symbolize political identity.

But not in every case. Some health conditions make it difficult for everyone to wear a mask. So Sagarin says if you want to engage with someone who isn’t wearing a mask…be friendly.

“Confronting them could, if anything, create a confrontation and a defensive response that might get them to double down on their decision to not wear a mask,” Sagarin said.

As for the likelihood of the majority of the United States following mask guidelines? He says it all depends on positive role modeling and unity in leadership.