The psychology of wearing a mask

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INDIANAPOLIS – More and more leaders are choosing to mandate masks in public. Next week, masks will be required if you are in public in Indianapolis.

Not everyone is on board with this mandate. Only about half of the people we saw in downtown Indy were wearing on Friday.

It isn’t easy painting with a mask on.

“Not in this heat,” said Terry K. Wilson as a painted a mural on one of the downtown businesses Friday.

Whether masks are mandated or not, Wilson said he will continue wearing his.

“So, I can keep painting, if I get sick, I can’t paint anymore,” said Wilson. “I need my eyes, hands and my health.”

However, some aren’t convinced masks protect against the virus because health officials changed their mind about recommending them.

Now, scientists have had the chance to study their effectiveness when it comes to COVID-19.

“We know that the masks, especially like the cloth masks you see people making at home, have a limited ability to protect inhalation per say,” explained Dr. Timothy Ellender, an Emergency Physician with IU Health. “But they have a miraculous ability to reduce dispersion, if that makes sense.”

He said if everyone is wearing cloth masks, it is safer for everyone.

There are also people who don’t want to wear a mask because they are being told they must. There’s a psychological explanation for that, according to University of Indianapolis Professor of Psychology Katie Boucher.


“We actually have this term called reactants, that all of us want to feel as though we have control over our own decisions,” said Boucher. “And so, whenever we feel someone telling us we need to do something we might actually feel like going against it just because we feel like someone is taking our choice away.”

Beepak Minavi is just visiting Indy. He said the idea that mask wearing would be politicized or questioned is odd to him.

“I don’t see in any other country, I come from India, and I don’t see any such thing there,” said Minavi.

This “it’s my choice” mentality is one reason the state created a public service announcement about masking up. It doesn’t make demands to wear a mask, rather, it highlights why people are wearing them. Boucher thinks that is the best way to view wearing a mask.

“I think it’s important in those moments when we start to feel like, I want to make this decision to decide, who we are making the decision for, as opposed to thinking that someone is making the decision for us,” said Boucher.

The mask mandate in Indianapolis begins on July 9. The mayor said he waited one week so people will have the proper time to prepare.

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(This story was originally published on July 3, 2020)

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