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Psychologist explains why some people wear masks, while others refuse

Now that masks are mandatory, we are finding that people fit into two categories, those who have been wearing them and those who refuse.

NEW ORLEANS — Now that masks are mandatory, we are finding that people fit into two categories: Those who have been wearing them voluntarily for a while and those who are just starting to wear them because of the mandate.

So why the difference in human behavior and attitude change during this pandemic?

It's not the first time we've been bombarded with public health advice. Think tobacco and smoking warnings, banning it from public places. There are diet, exercise and sugar warnings, wearing seat belts became law and there were safer sex messages about condoms when AIDS was diagnosed.

Some messages come with fear while others with education. So, we wanted to dig a little deeper into the current debate on masks and human behavior. We stopped grocery shoppers and asked for their opinions.

Some say they wear them voluntarily.

"We're on the verge of having the businesses close again, so I really don't want that to happen because a lot of peoples affected, because they pay their bills and that's how they live by working, and if you don't wear the mask you could literally kill someone," said one man.

"If it means protecting others, protecting family members, we definitely want to do the right thing. We'd rather be safe than sorry," said a young woman.

"If you sneeze, if you cough, you're spraying germs, so for me it just made great sense and I was happy to do it and still am," said another woman.

Others wear a mask because of the mandate.

"It was hard to even get started even this morning. Going to another store, I walked into the store and one of the officers that were there had to chase me down. I completely forgot about it. I would rather not wear a mask. I try to give people their distance," explained a young man.

"It was hard. It was very hard and I did it because we have to," said a woman.

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So, we turned to LSU Health Psychologist Dr. Michelle Moore about human behavior and attitude change. And she says if you're having a hard time adjusting, there may be reasons.

Dr. Moore says there have been a lot of changes recently and with no time to adjust. There's so much uncertainty in jobs, schools and everyday errands even. Some struggle being told what to do by authority when it doesn't fit into their personal beliefs.

Others who volunteer to wear a mask may fear for their personal health or are thinking about the health of others. They may adapt to change more easily. She says those people may have an easier time because that can see the bigger community picture.

Other behavior experts say part of the push back on masks may also be because of the mixed messages we got months ago. That was before doctors realized how the coronavirus can spread by people with no symptoms.

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