Noncompliance With Masking As a Coalitional Signal to US Conservatives In a Pandemic

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Humans have evolved perceptual acuity toward environmental cues heuristically associated with communicable disease that elicits an aversion. One heuristic cue that humans utilize to infer contamination threat is ingroup-outgroup status, with prejudices arising toward outgroup members due to potential novel pathogen exposure. The current study sought to investigate how disease responses in the US population have been modulated by the COVID-19 pandemic, given its origins in China, an outgroup population. We predicted that participants expressing heightened perceived vulnerability to disease and greater levels of conservatism would report higher levels of aversion towards targets not wearing a mask, particularly among Asian targets, given the association of COVID-19 with Asian populations. Results indicate that conservative individuals were more comfortable with both Asian and White targets if they were not wearing a mask, particularly male targets. We contextualize these findings by identifying how mask-wearing during the pandemic could be more communicative of one’s coalitional affiliation rather than a protective health measure for more conservative persons.

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Evolutionary Psychological Science

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