Individuals’ perceptions of science as a source of superior knowledge can predict the likelihood of mask wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study led by University of Maine psychology researchers.
Doctoral students Morgan Stosic and Shelby Helwig, and assistant professor Mollie Ruben examined whether belief in science (BIS), a construct that measures the value individuals assign to scientific information, can predict mask wearing behavior and, if so, whether the relationship is mediated by belief in the effectiveness of face masks in reducing the transmission of COVID-19. Their findings were published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Study participants self-reported mask wearing behaviors, beliefs in the effectiveness of face masks in preventing the spread of coronavirus, the degree to which they valued science as a source of superior knowledge and sociodemographic data.
Results show that greater BIS predicted stronger belief in the effectiveness of face masks in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and greater reported face mask wearing in public. In addition, the study confirmed the mediating role of belief in the effectiveness of face masks in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in this relationship. Greater BIS predicted greater belief in the effectiveness of face masks in reducing the transmission of COVID-19, which, in turn, predicted greater reported face mask wearing behavior in public.
Gender, age, race, ethnicity, region and political ideology were all significant predictors of face mask use, suggesting that men compared to women, white individuals compared to Black individuals, non-Hispanic individuals compared to Hispanic or Latino individuals, those in rural and suburban areas compared to urban areas, and more politically conservative individuals may benefit from targeted public health messaging about the advantages of wearing face masks and, more broadly, about the importance of science, according to UMaine, in a news release.
Stosic, the paper’s first author, received a 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships Program award to support her doctoral research exploring the accuracy of perceptions of personality and emotional states when interactions are limited to video conferencing platforms. The goal of these investigations is to develop tailored training that fosters accurate perception skills among interviewers, healthcare providers and other professionals. She is one of three NSF graduate fellowship recipients from UMaine this year, joining Ph.D. students Madeleine Landrum and Zander Roman.
About the University of Maine:
The University of Maine, founded in Orono in 1865, is the state's land grant, sea grant and space grant university. It is located on Marsh Island in the homeland of the Penobscot Nation. As Maine's flagship public university, UMaine has a statewide mission of teaching, research and economic development, and community service. UMaine is the state's only public research university and among the most comprehensive higher education institutions in the Northeast. It attracts students from all 50 states and more than 75 countries. UMaine currently enrolls 11,741 undergraduate and graduate students who have opportunities to participate in groundbreaking research with world-class scholars. UMaine offers more than 100 degree programs through which students can earn master's, doctoral or professional science master's degrees, as well as graduate certificates. The university promotes environmental stewardship, with substantial efforts campuswide to conserve energy, recycle and adhere to green building standards in new construction. For more information about UMaine, visit umaine.edu.