Behavior change, conformity, and social pressure (end of mask mandates)

«Every organization needs a designated asshole. That is my gift to the Killjoy collective. The asshole may not be liked, but he will always be necessary because he does what’s needed.»
Fancy Lee in «Killjoys»

After … damn, how long did we have mask mandates for shopping? End of April 2020 to beginning of April 2022. Almost two years? Damn, so much for restrictions on public life is a conspiracy theory.

Anyway, after having had to wear a mask shopping (and during some periods also at work), masking is no longer mandatory. After two years of always having to put on a mask when you go shopping.

Two years?

As a personal aside, frankly, I never liked masks and never did get used to them. Not only because the first time I wore one (mid-April 2020) I watched my father die over a period of 18 hours, but also because I think they are overrated for public use. Don’t get me started on the fabric masks that are like trying to stop a mosquito with a volleyball net. But even medical masks have to be handled right each and every time. You can learn it as a medical professional, act this way in specific settings, but for the public — yeah, likely more problems than utility. Especially when they are not discarded after every use and start to become a health risk on their own.

But whatever the utility, the human behavior is what is interesting. After having people to wear them this long, how many people are willing and able to go shopping without them?

Judging by an informal observation during the last week (first week without mask mandate) — not too many. I was usually one of a handful of people in the supermarket without a mask. Same at work.

And it might be for good reasons. After all, if people think that masks work and protect themselves and others against Covid, it makes sense for them to continue to wear it.

But perhaps it’s more a security blanket. As this meme (by TerrellAfterMath) nicely illustrated:

And I wonder what the fallout will be of using fear for two years to get compliance. Who will stop wearing masks first? Those who do not see their utility, sure, but perhaps also those who are not very agreeable, after all, you have to do something, which does not conform to majority behavior. Hmm, might be interesting to do some research, e.g., getting attitudes/knowledge regarding effectiveness of masks, seriousness of Covid (including age/comorbidities) and Big Five traits (esp. agreeableness).

Hmm, one of those moments in which I wish I would still be closer to Social Psychology in my research.

But anyway, I really wonder who these people are — my guess is a bimodal distribution. With some dumb-as-rocks people on one side of the distribution, but on the other those who are open to experience and disagreeable enough to do something different and useful, i.e. are creative, and nothing much in between.

But yeah, an empirical question.