Masks mandates may be a thing of the past across most of the country, but COVID-19 is still infecting around 30,000 Americans every day with the death toll increasing daily anywhere from several dozen to well over a thousand.
Wearing a face mask can still help stop the spread. But there’s new data on who’s most likely to wear them in public. A study recently published in Frontiers in Psychology found that people who think they’re attractive are less likely to wear masks. Meanwhile, people who feel they aren’t attractive are more likely to cover their nose and mouth.
Many factors can affect a person’s decision to wear a mask, including their age, risk tolerance, and susceptibility to severe illness, but now a person’s perception of their own physical attraction can be added to the list.
Researchers in South Korea asked 244 adults in the U.S. about how they feel about their own physical attractiveness and whether they felt wearing a mask affected their appearance. They then asked the participants to imagine going in for a job interview and asked whether they would prefer to keep their mask on or take it off.
“Individuals with higher self-perceived attractiveness were less likely to endorse the belief that mask-wearing enhances their perceived attractiveness, which further dampened their mask-wearing intention in job interviews,” the authors explained.
People who believe they are good looking may be eager to show off their appearance, especially when it comes to dating, meeting new people, or even applying for a job.
In another part of the study, the researchers divided 442 people into two groups. They asked the first group to imagine going to a job interview and the second group to imagine a less stressful situation, such as walking their dog. Both groups were then asked whether they would choose to wear a mask in their given situation.
The results show that people tend to base their decision on whether wearing a mask would make them look better. This was much more common in high-stakes situations like job interviews. In fact, a mask’s overall effect on a person’s appearance may be even more influential on their decision than their health and sense of risk.
“Our findings suggest that mask-wearing can shift from being a self-protection measure during the COVID-19 pandemic to a self-presentation tactic in the post-pandemic era,” the authors added.