American conservatives feel more comfortable around Asians who do not wear masks than those who do, according to a new study.
Aim and methodology:
, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science, suggests that conservatives view masking compliance as more communicative of political affiliation than a “protective health measure.”
- Researchers of the study aimed to “investigate how disease responses in the US population have been modulated by the COVID-19 pandemic, given its origins in China.”
- They presented 351 participants — who were mostly white — with 16 faces from the Chicago Faces Database. These faces belong to men and women who are either white or Asian. Each face they presented had two versions: one with a mask and one without.
Key findings: The researchers found that conservative participants feel more comfortable around “both Asian and White targets if they were not wearing a mask, particularly male targets.”
- “Conservatives may thus view those not wearing a mask as belonging to their ingroup. Additionally, this inclusion might have served as a buffer for Asian targets, who otherwise would have been viewed as outgroup members,” researcher Kaitlyn Boykin and her team said.
- Still, the study found that participants indicated more comfort around white faces than Asian faces as a whole. They also indicated more comfort around female targets than male targets.
- These findings provide insight into the possible “dual signaling function of masks” which arises from the compliance or noncompliance with mask-wearing.
- “If participants did not view wearing a mask as a means of protecting oneself and others from potentially harmful pathogens,” the researchers said, “mask-wearing might have been viewed as a signal to another’s coalition status, given the resistance among certain conservative populations to mask-wearing within the context of the current global pandemic and political climate in the USA.”
- The researchers also added that future studies could benefit from further investigations of the relationship between political ideology and masking compliance, as well as the type of masks worn, such as those with an American flag design and other masks that “overtly [display] coalitional status.”
Why this matters: Mask-wearing Asian Americans have been targets of violence since the onset of COVID-19.
- Just last month, a man allegedly harassed a group of Asian women for wearing masks in Boston. The group, who were dancing to K-pop music on a busy street, realized that the man was being racist when he started talking about communism with them.
- In August, a couple with their child in a stroller attacked an Indigenous Filipina nurse for handing out masks to them in a New York subway. Last year, a man beat up a Chinese woman in a subway station — also in New York — for wearing a mask, calling her a “diseased b*tch.”