Study suggests people think mask wearers are more trustworthy, but more likely to be ill

A recent study published in the scientific journal “Personality and Individual Differences“ suggests that personality can determine how an individual might feel or react to another person who is wearing a mask during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The authors of the study took several things into consideration, including how tolerant someone was with things that elicit feelings of disgust, social anxiety and social trust.

“Specifically, we assessed whether individual differences in pathogen disgust sensitivity, social anxiety and generalized social trust predicted judgments of trustworthiness, desired social distance and perceptions of sickness of target faces wearing surgical masks,” the authors of the study said.

RELATED: ICU doctor runs 22 miles while wearing mask to prove it doesn’t drop oxygen levels

Researchers observed the “behavioral immune system,” which is a human’s instinctual response “to detect the presence of potential sources of disease, triggering aversive responses that lead to behavioral avoidance,” in 1054 participants.

Most of the participants consisted of men and women who were from Colombia or another Spanish-speaking country, according to the authors of the study.

Each of the participants were assessed online in pathogen disgust sensitivity, social anxiety, and generalized social trust, in random order.

For example, a participant would be presented with a situation such as “accidentally touching a person’s bloody cut,” and could rate their disgust level on a scale of 1 to 7.

The study gave participants specific scenarios that related to the current pandemic, including photos of people wearing a mask and people not wearing a mask, as well as situations that involved social distancing.

The results revealed “mask wearers were perceived as more likely to be ill, more trustworthy and more socially desirable” as opposed to those who were not wearing a mask.

“In conclusion, our findings shed light on the role of individual differences in social judgments of mask-wearers (and non-mask-wearers) in the context of Spanish-speaking countries experiencing the COVID-19 global pandemic. Although exploratory in nature, this study may help to rethink some quarantine policies from the standpoint of social perception and individual differences,” the study concluded.

The authors also acknowledged the limitations of their study, stating that their results cannot be generalized across the masses.

“For instance, cross-cultural research suggests that Colombia, Peru and Spain (the countries from which 98.6% of our sample were drawn) are very high in ‘uncertainty avoidance,’ which may influenced these results,” according to the study.

RELATED: Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide now 20 million

The worldwide count of known COVID-19 infections climbed past 20 million on Monday, with more than half of them from just three countries: the U.S., India and Brazil, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Russia and the Philippines round out the list of the top 10 countries contributing the most new cases to the global tally since July 22, according to an Associated Press analysis of Johns Hopkins data through Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.