The psychological impact of masks

Our lives have changed rapidly and drastically. As a society, we were faced with a situation that we were not prepared for before. We are currently immersed in a “new normal” in which among other big changes the use of the mask… how does it affect us?

At PsicoAlmería we observe many changes at the cognitive and behavioral level, both individual changes and in new models of society.

    How does the new habit of wearing a mask affect us psychologically?

    One of the biggest changes in initially focusing on the individual was the initial rejection of the mask.

    As individuals with deep beliefs about feeling free and with decision-making power and freedomThe new mandatory measure of mask use is presented as incongruous with our belief system, so our response is rejection, although it is a measure that protects us.

    This is not an isolated case, as it has happened in our history with other measures imposed, such as the anti-smoking law or the points on the driver’s license. These measures, although initially there were criticisms and rejections from part of society, after a period of habituation seems normal to us, part of our life.

    Denial movement and cognitive biases

    Fortunately, most of the population is responsible for this measure of mask use and other related measures for the prevention of COVID-19 infections. however, a small part of our society is generating a new denial movement against the use of these measures. How does psychology explain it?

    We detect significant cognitive biases. At the individual level, for example, it may happen that we have a personality in which we do not like to appear weak and the use of the mask makes us think that they seem vulnerable and are afraid of infecting us, avoiding their initial use.

    Another mistake that we make is the bias of the result: “I was not infected and I did not wear a mask, why use it?”, Therefore believing that we will not be entrusted in the future and not changing our habits.

    But the most dangerous psychological effects which best explain the current denial movements are certainly the Bandwagon effect or the drag effect, In what we do and believe in something for the simple fact that others in my environment or my group are doing it. This effect is related to group thinking or gregarious behavior; we need to feel included in our social group, so it’s easy to believe and act as my closest environment, or with which I identify. This psychological trend occurs in proportion to the number of people who already have it, which is currently reflected in movements of refusal against the use of masks or the falsification of the VOCID-19 disease.

    Finally, another important psychological effect is the cognitive bias of underestimating danger, In which we believe that we will not be infected or that the disease (if infected) will be mild without complications, mistakenly believing that this bad luck happens to others, like other serious diseases with low incidence.

    Cognitive behavioral changes

    After months of using this part, the mask, we have adapted to new patterns of behavior. One of the most important and perhaps the most difficult for us to change is our social way of greeting each other., Get used to “two kisses” or a good handshake and smile, among other similar contact greetings.

    As a result, we feel more “cold and distant,” and can easily cause changes in personality and self-concept, and in the worst case, be a trigger or a poor predictor of some psychological disorder.

    On the other hand, with the use of the mask the importance of non-verbal behavior and facial expressions becomes evident. In verbal communications, we rely heavily on the gestures of others, such as a smile, which causes us to reorient the way we speak and communicate. With the mask, we have lost this social, communicative and empathetic part.

    Another important fact is that we have seen an increase in the number of people who do not feel well there and who were not aware of this deficit for the simple fact that they relied on complementary lip reading in their communications.

    A little positive about the use of masks is the assumption that it makes us look prettier. In addition to being able to wear them personalized, having almost half of the face covered forces our brains to reinterpret the missing part in the faces we see. Following the concept of modal termination, our brain reinterprets what is missing in the most symmetrical and flattering way possible.

    A few final tips

    It is very important that the masks we use are approved so that they are safe and effective.; this protection can also be obtained with hygienic fabric masks with integrated and reusable filters, taking care of the environment.

    Masks will be safe if they are certified and have passed all required lab tests.

    Finally, this time is difficult and unfortunately not everyone can face it in the best way. If you experience anxiety or difficulty, PsychoAlmeria you will find expert professional help (online and in person).

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