Loading articles...

Asking others to wear masks can backfire, praising use more effective: cognitive science professor

Last Updated Jul 23, 2020 at 9:10 pm EDT

People wearing protective masks during the coronavirus pandemicwalk along the High Line Park, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in New York. The Highline opened today after having been closed the last few months during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Citizens probably shouldn't ask each other to wear masks, suggest professor of cognitive science

Dr. Jim Davies says it is more effective to praise people for positive behaviour

Dr. Bonnie Henry says mandatory masks in B.C. aren't necessary

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Wearing a mask for the safety of others has been suggested by health officials, but a professor of cognitive science says it isn’t worth it for citizens to enforce this among themselves.

“It’s a question of what is going to do the most good, right? When you tell someone what they’re doing is morally problematic, they find it very upsetting and distressing and will often respond with anger,” explains Dr. Jim Davies.

“People don’t really like being told what to do.”

RELATED: Coronavirus: Is it pointless to wear a mask with your nose uncovered?

He says it might be more acceptable for some people to make the request, such as someone who is immunocompromised. Davies adds store employees also have more authority to ask someone to wear a mask.

Rather than mandating their use in public spaces, he says it is more effective to praise people for positive behaviour and outlining the good that wearing a mask does for others.

“Generally, citizens trying to get other citizens to behave will cause resentment and might even backfire,” Davies says.

No mandatory masks in B.C.

While a sweeping mandate for masks isn’t coming from B.C. health officials, wearing a mask when physical distancing isn’t possible is still recommended.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says since there isn’t a lot of community spread, B.C. isn’t at a point where mandatory masks are necessary.

RELATED: Premier Horgan says education over enforcement for COVID-19 rulebreakers

“It is not my expectation that we will require mandatory masking in indoor spaces. We know that it is an additional layer on top of the other layers that we use to keep each other safe, and it is the least effective of the layers that we have.”

She points out there are reasons some people aren’t able to wear masks.

“We need to be able to accommodate them without stigmatizing people.”

Henry has also refused to make the wearing of masks mandatory, even though a Lower Mainland doctor is taking legal action to do so.

-With files from Marcella Bernardo