People Refusing To Wear Masks To Avoid COVID-19 Tend To Have Low Intelligence, Study Shows

Aadhya Khatri - Jul 14, 2020


People Refusing To Wear Masks To Avoid COVID-19 Tend To Have Low Intelligence, Study Shows

According to the study, whether people adhere to COVID-19 social distancing depends on how much information their memory can store, or their intelligence

You may have heard of the term “covidiot,” which becomes trendy when COVID-19 struck and some people, for some reason, don’t want to comply with the authority’s advice to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Recently, scientists have found the reason behind these puzzling behaviors.

According to the researchers, how much people adhere to social distancing order depends on the level of information their memory can store, in other words, their intelligence.

COVID-19 mask wearing intelligence
How much people adhere to social distancing order depends on the level of information their memory can store

This is the result of a survey involving 850 Americans. The team behind this finding has evidence proving that those with more memory capacity are more likely to act on the social distancing order.

The study suggests policymakers need to spread awareness to encourage compliance based on people’s different cognitive abilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic started to infect the US earlier this year and the CDC has announced a list of recommendations, including social distancing and wearing a mask to prevent the disease from spreading.

While these measures sound quite easy to follow, many Americans refuse to comply, thus pushing the number of cases through the roof.

COVID-19 mask wearing intelligence 1
While these measures sound quite easy to follow, many Americans refuse to comply

This puzzling behavior has inspired a team of experts from the University of California to find an answer to why some people insist on not wearing masks while others comply.

What they found out is people with a higher working capacity are more aware of the cost and benefits of wearing a mask and social distancing. This brain part is in charge of decision making and behaviors. It holds information for only a few seconds.

The amount of information the working memory can retain is the decisive factor of comprehension, intelligence, and the ability to learn.

According to Weiwei Zhang, University of California’s associate professor, people with a higher working memory tend to be more likely to follow the COVID-19 social distancing order.

COVID-19 mask wearing intelligence 3
Crowds on Florida shoreline when the state's governor refused to shut down beaches

The team conducted the survey from March 13 to March 15, during the first two weeks after the US declared COVID-19 a national emergency.

The 85 participants were asked to fill in a demographic survey, which shows a person’s depressed mood, anxious feelings, and social distancing compliance.

It also measures people’s intelligence and their understanding of the consequences and benefits of social distancing.

According to Zhang, differences in the capacity of working memory can determine compliance just as much as personality traits and other factors.

So according to him, materials promoting compliance should be brief, succinct, and concise to make the decision-making process easier. He said the US should not rely too much on habitual behavior as social distancing is not well accepted in the society.

COVID-19 mask wearing intelligence 4
Zhang said the US should not rely too much on habitual behavior as social distancing is not well accepted in the society

So before people have the habit of wearing masks and stay 2 meters apart from each other, the decision to comply with these recommendations are mentally effortful. This means people will have to make an effort to overcome the habit of avoiding effortful decisions.

The team expects the influence of working memory will wear off over time when people are more familiar with social distancing and wearing a mask.

This study is in line with some states in the US recently seeing a spike in the number of cases. Florida has 282,000 cases at the moment and the state is trying to keep itself open against the advice of health organizations to shut it down.

Back in March, Ron DeSantis, the state's governor refused to close down beaches, a decision that resulted in the massive crowds along the shoreline. That is not all, several Floridians don’t wear masks in public places.

COVID-19 mask wearing intelligence 2
Back in March, Ron DeSantis, the state's governor refused to close down beaches, a decision that resulted in the massive crowds along the shoreline

The state’s policy groups are pushing the governor to require Floridians to wear masks and accused him of manipulating data and misleading Florida’s citizens of how severe COVID-19 really is.

In a video, the groups said the state was now a COVID-19 hotspot because of DeSantis’s failed leadership.

He said it was better to trust people to know what to do and to make good decisions rather than mandating things.

Another, more prominent example of not complying with CDC’s recommendation is President Donald Trump, who has insisted on not wearing a mask ever since the pandemic reached the US.

COVID-19 mask wearing intelligence 5
Another, more prominent example of not complying with CDC’s recommendation is President Donald Trump

Over the weekend, the president was seen wearing a face mask for the first time when he visited the Walter Reed military hospital.

>>> While COVID-19 Is Killing Millions Of People, US Students Are Hosting Coronavirus Parties

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