Scientists in Brazil have linked the behavior of refusing to wear masks to antisocial personality traits.

Face masks have been suggested by scientists as the best method to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as many countries move out of harsh lockdowns to carry on regular economic activity.

While many people are willing to wear a mask, there are others who vehemently refuse or lazily flout these new regulations. In some countries, especially the United States of America, the issue of face masks has become a culture war leveraged by political parties and specific groups to muddy the waters on COVID-19 interventions.

This study, the first of its kind in Latin America, aimed to find out why people were refusing or just not wearing masks in the hope that the results could help improve messaging on this vital preventative tool.

Through the distribution of a questionnaire to 1,500 people aged between 18-73. The survey attempted to find out the participants’ responses to feelings brought on by another person. They were also asked directly about their COVID-19 compliance over time, including their mask-wearing habits.

“Through screenings that demonstrate an elevation in these traits, interventions can be carried out aiming at greater awareness and consequent compliance with containment measures”, the team explained, according to The Independent.

The study found that those who exhibited lower levels of empathy and higher levels of callousness, deceitfulness, and risk-taking were also found to have lower compliance with COVID-19 containment measures.

“Our findings were in the hypothesised direction, suggesting that adherence to containment measures is more challenging to people with a pattern of antisociality in comparison to those who have an empathy pattern,” the team said.

The researchers hope that by understanding the kinds of people who do not wear masks, messaging can be adapted to reach them where they care. Currently, much of the push around masks is related to caring about others, but if this study proves correct, this is not something those with antisocial behaviours care about.

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