Effects of Anti-COVID Face Masks on Contagion Risk Evaluation: Wearing a Mask Intensifies Moral Judgments Towards Risky Behaviors
We investigated the effects of complying with measures aimed at offsetting the risks of spreading COVID-19 on the evaluation of risks themselves. We concentrated on faces masks, being an easily manipulable condition that represents one of the most widespread, effective, and debated preventive measures to deal with the pandemic. Wearing face masks is an effortful behavior that, from the individual’s perspective, is justified as far as there are prudential or moral reasons to avoid the risks posed by COVID-19. Consequently, wearing masks without accepting these reasons is a condition that can trigger cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). The attempt to prevent or reduce dissonance, we argue, would promote attitude change with respect to the risks associated with the pandemic. This can be done by altering beliefs and emotions about the risks themselves or about the morally appropriate behavior related to these risks. In the present study, we tested this hypothesis by measuring the attitudes toward risks associated with COVID-19 of three randomized groups of participants: a group was asked to wear face masks, a second received no specific request, and a third was asked to put on an item of clothing unrelated to the pandemic. The data collected showed an effect of mask-wearing on the moral judgments related to COVID-19 risks, with no significant results for other morality-unrelated attitudes toward risks.
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