The rise of mask shaming reveals the tricky science of social change

added 27.06.2020 17:19

by Amit Katwala from
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There is a tipping point around this level where adding a single extra voice to the minority group advocating for a social change seems to have a big difference – and the same could be true for mask wearing.

But a behaviour like wearing a mask spreads better over strong ties – you’re more likely to wear one if all your friends are, for instance.

Scientists study the way that behaviours like mask wearing or hand washing spread across a population – anthropologist Mark Granovetter divides connections between people into strong ties and weak ties.

North Dakota, which is just one of a number of states where people have reported being shamed or abused for wearing masks, is one of only a handful of states that aren’t recommending that their residents wear masks in public (although many have said they can’t enforce such guidance legally).

One of the challenges of getting people to adopt the new behaviours that will prevent a second wave will be trying to activate some of those weak ties via the use of social media, for example – if everyone you follow on Twitter is wearing a mask in their profile picture, you might be more likely to wear one outside.