Australia Health Media Politics

The Psychology of Masks

The Psychology of Masks

There was a revealing moment at the press conference where the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that masks were to be made compulsory on public transport and in some indoor settings such as shops, cinemas and churches.   She admitted that the main reason for doing was ‘to give business confidence’.  In other words this was nothing to do with ‘the science’ but was psychological.  It was also political – the pressure from the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC and the general chattering classes was becoming way too intense.  Daily we are bombarded with sensationalist headlines (‘Cases soar in Sydney’ – on a day when there were seven new cases in the whole of NSW), and simplistic solutions – if we all wear masks then we will stop Covid.   This is our way to control it.  One ‘expert’ cited in the SMH solemnly pronounced that masks would result in 30% less Covid cases in Sydney.  He of course does not know that – he was just making it up.  But it is treated as holy writ by journalists and politicians desperate for bad news and simple answers.    It is Bidenesque in its folly –  “if everyone wore masks we would save 100,000 lives by Christmas’.    It’s little wonder that Gladys caved and now we all have to wear masks.

I wrote this letter to the Premier –

Dear Gladys,

I doubt you will read this but I wanted to say that whilst I have been greatly impressed with your leadership in the Covid crisis the announcement about facemasks was deeply disappointing.    You admitted that the reason for doing this was ‘to give business confidence’.    In other words it is psychological not science.  The WHO report on Facemasks issued on the 1st of December 2020 admitted that there was little scientific evidence that masks prevented community transmission.  My fear is that you have given into political pressure rather than do what you have been doing so well so far – following the scientific evidence.

I am not opposed to wearing masks (indeed I do so when I am in a crowded situation). But  I do object to government mandates based upon politics and psychology rather than science.   I also find that there is an adverse psychological effect – firstly it seems to give many people a false confidence so that they avoid social distancing.  Secondly it instills fear, suspicion and hostility.    I for one will avoid as far as possible public transport, will avoid going to shops and avoid going to any venue where I have to wear a mask (except church).   I suspect that your reason for doing this (that it will give business confidence) will turn out to be the exact opposite.  Complusory masks do not inspire confidence and I believe will only discourage the economy.  

I will not now be going to the Sydney Cricket Ground.  This is a very dispiriting and discouraging announcement.  It certainly gives the impression that, like the other Premiers, you have lost your nerve and given into the Sydney Morning Herald test, rather than the scientific evidence.

In that regard I am also confused as to why I am permitted to go to the SCG with 20,000 other people for a whole day to watch cricket, but am not permitted to go with any more than 100 people to worship at my church?  What is the scientific reason for that anamoly?  It appears that policy is being made on economic and political grounds – rather than rational scientific ones. 

I hope that by the time you get this – these policies will have been reversed and you will have gone back to your more balanced and sensible leadership.

Yours etc

David Robertson

I’ve already written about the reasons for and against wearing masks and I’m not going to repeat that here -but what I am interested in is the psychology – the way that we think and why we think that way.  I think there is some interesting, and somewhat disturbing,  thinking (or to be more accurate ‘feeling’ ) concerning the wearing of masks.

The psychology of masks is all about control, confidence, compassion, and condemnation.

Control

There is no doubt that mask wearing is seen as the necessary cure all and our way to defeat the disease.   The big cry is that we need to be able to ‘control’ this.   We must be able to control it.  But what if we can’t?  At least not without doing considerable and perhaps greater harm elsewhere?

Confidence

Gladys admitted that this was the main reason for making masks mandatory – because it gives people confidence – but does it?  And is that confidence a false confidence?  There is no evidence that masks prevent you getting Covid –   and the evidence that they prevent you giving Covid is somewhat limited.  Why is it that countries which have compulsory masks are also those that have the largest number of cases?  I am not arguing that correlation is causation, but if masks were so effective that they were going to end the pandemic why is that not happening in areas where masks are mandatory?  Take for example California – which is in a state of near collapse.  https://www.politico.com/amp/news/2020/12/23/california-covid-surge-450315?__twitter_impression=true

Or Germany – which was the poster boy for mask wearing – its low level of cases in June was put down to a large degree to the mask effect (the figure listed was 40%) – now Germany has had an enormous surge and is also in lockdown – despite masks.

What if the ‘confidence’ instilled by masks ends up being a cause for Covid spreading – as people think they are safe and so avoid proven methods like social distancing and hand washing?  Is it verboten even to ask such questions?

Compassion –

A reason for wearing masks is that we want to show compassion – to show that we care.  This is commendable and is a good reason for wearing masks.  It is considerate to bear in mind other people.   But I am not convinced that compassion is the major driving force behind those who are making these decisions.  It’s been so depressing to see family, friends and church being forced into lockdown yet again back in the UK (despite masks being compulsory!) because Boris and Nicola have to be seen to be doing something. Has Premier Dan Andrews in Victoria insisted that all office workers should have masks on indoors at all times because that’s what the science says – or because it shows that he’s still in charge?   It’s easy for politicians and public servants to demand yet more restrictions – because they are not the ones who will lose their secure jobs, healthcare and lifestyles.  Of course wearing a mask is a relatively small imposition – but it is a sign.

Condemnation

There are many people who have examined the question and are much more certain about the efficacy and importance of masks than I am.  They may well be right and I would love to see their evidence. I genuinely just don’t know.   My concern is with those who havn’t really thought about it and yet just accept the mantras they are fed.  Having the ‘right’ opinion on masks is so easy.  It allows you to be on the side of the angels and to have free rein to condemn those who don’t share your opinion. And it costs you virtually nothing to be so virtuous.

It’s depressing the level of abuse that gets hurled at anyone who dares question the herd mentality.  (that is one of the reasons why I have not written about this for any of the publications I normally write for – its not worth them getting the abuse!).    For example this is the kind of tweet you can expect if you dare to ask for evidence that masks actually are effective in preventing the spread of Covid –  “Yeah I guess all those doctors and surgeons wearing them for all that time know nothing. Dumbass”.  This mob mentality is hyped up by much of the media.  Yesterday I heard the BBC world service encouraging people to be busybodies and insist on telling those without masks to get them on – because as they said ‘masking is the solution’.   I also have to say that abuse comes from the other extreme as well.  I have been called a ‘coward’ for disagreeing with the government mandate but still going along with it.  It’s disappointing that people don’t seem to understand that there can be lots of laws you don’t agree with, which you go along with.  This is not to say that you always do so – but that is only when they are important decrees which specifically go against the Word of God – wearing masks does not fall into that category!

Confusion

We are told by the politicians that when we go out we should behave as though we have Covid – but we are then told that if we have Covid we shouldn’t go out at all.    We are told that it is not safe to pass through a shop without a mask, but it is safe to sit in a café for hours without one.  It is not safe to have more than 100 people worship God in church but it is fine to have 20,000 go to the cricket.

As I already indicated  in my previous article – I am not opposed to masks (but would still like to see the peer reviewed evidence) and will obey the law.  It makes sense to me to wear them in an environment where conditions are crowded, social distancing is impossible, and where there is significant community transmission.  But governments insisting that we should wear them for psychological, economic and political reasons is a big mistake.  One that will cause far more harm than good.  We are heading down a dangerous route…

David

PS.  I found this discussion interesting in bringing up many of the main issues – although I don’t agree with everything! Brendan O’Neill and Julia Hartley-Brewer.

To Wear or not to Wear A Face Mask? CT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 comments

  1. It has been thus from the beginning of this. I think most people realise that its largely a psychological exercise by governments as it has always contained such obvious contradictions. Don’t wear masks, oh we need people out shopping, do wear masks…. It seems a no-brainer that they will have some effect but no game changer otherwise evidence for them would be veryeasy to find in the stats and it’s not. Same goes for lockdowns if you look at stats across various countries using differing strategies. There’s no rhyme nor reason to be seen and it is actually very confusing for anyone in government trying to do something to help. It’s a game of pin the tail on the donkey dressed up in faux certainties as if you don’t have a blindfold on. Sadly this pretence has resulted in the downsides of the restrictions being utterly down-played in the decision making processes.
    Its all largely an exercise in controlling the narrative happily played along with by most of mainstream media who are no longer serving their intended purpose.
    Let’s hope that vaccines prove effective and safe long term or the folly of what’s been foisted on us so far will come home to roost in spades as it proves to be a totally unsustainable way for society to deal with this issue long term.
    I thank God that it pretty much spares those under 50.
    It is shining light on our governments and systems in a very revealing way to those who want to see. They are not actually very effective at all but very much trying to look like they are.

  2. Well, whether physical masks or psychological ones, we wear them in order to be accepted. If our governments tell us to wear masks we are duty bound to be obedient to the ruling authorities being put there as they have been by God. And the apostle Paul became a Greek to the Greeks, Jew to the Jew, Gentile to the Gentiles to be accepted so that nothing be a hindrance to the Gospel of Jesus.

    While at the same time our struggle being against rulers and authorities in this dark world.

    And your closing paragraph epitomised this dichotomy.

  3. Masks are not globally ‘compulsory’ in the UK, one is requested to wear them inside shops and not everyone does. It is not enforced as there is no one to do it other than the disapproving looks of onlookers which some go out of their way to attract in any case.
    PS Try suggesting to medical staff that their masks are a waste of time. What on earth is this fuss about – I wear a mask when requested and my life is not worse nor my faith damaged. 🤷‍♂️

  4. Hi David,

    I don’t hold any view on masks as passionately as you seem to, but I tend to think that the mask mandate is a small enough inconvenience for me to give it the benefit of the doubt in terms of whether or not they are effective.

    I’m thankful that here in NSW the mask mandate is at least sensible enough that we are not required to wear them in extremely low risk situations, such as when we are out exercising or just walking around outside. The $200 penalty for non-compliance does concern me though, as does the relentless media pillorying of the young bride from Manly who happened to break the lockdown so that she could attend her own wedding. These penalties seem heavy-handed and unnecessary given the general good faith that people have shown.

    God bless.

  5. The UK govt strategy of-“hands-face-space”-is arguably one of the greatest public health campaign screw ups in history. They have possibly managed to convince a great mass of ordinary people that we are dealing with D&V type bug spread. Anyone who virtue signals, by shopping in a mask, with periodic application of alcohol hand wipe, will be fine; and keep everyone else fine, too. Spacing, especially of the elderly and vulnerable, is what is needed. Vladimir Putin’s stay at home if you are elderly is a plainer message. To avoid all crowded situations if possible, or, if essential work takes you into them, then wear a mask, is what we need to be hearing.

  6. Duplicity, psychology and control are always at work in business and politics. So why would we expect that they could ever be inclined to “let a good crisis go to waste”?

    This crisis highlights the mindgames that are being employed all around. Thanks for calling them out, David

  7. Masks! “Yes”.
    Say “no” to fear and loathing.

    There is a statistical reduction in droplets of moisture that transmit the virus. (The ones stopped by masks) We all understand that it is not an elimination of droplets. So yes, masks are not stopping transmission. ( I sneezed with a mask on yesterday and still covered my mouth. Do I get extra points???)

    1. Of course! Only a fool thinks they are a 100% seal in either direction – but we don’t make seat belts “optional” in case people wearing them are tempted to drive recklessly. Not even when studies established that some do.

      It’s simply tilting the odds – like locks on doors, which won’t put off a determined housebreaker and certainly won’t work if you leave the door wide open – but will make the casual thief walk on by. Add another precaution, and the odds nudge further in your favour again. But it’s probably unnecessary for most to make their home an actual fortress, and few do.

      Leave the door open, and you’re gambling whether you’ll (a) escape attention altogether (b) just lose the telly or (c) let in a violent criminal not content with mere portable goods. Do it when you share the house with others, and you’re forcing the same risk on them as well – they don’t get a free choice.

      I struggle with masks, as a spectacle wearer in cold weather, but with God’s help I persevere. May he keep all here safe and speed the success of vaccination.

      1. Not 100%. In terms of preventing the wearer getting Covid the best figures suggest that it is only 5%. The Norwegians worked out that it would take 20 million masks to possibly save one life. In terms of the odds that is a good question. Governments could save tens of thousands of lives by one simple measure – do you think they should take it? They could put the speed limit down to 5mph. Should they do it? Or ban alcohol? If not – why not? Don’t you care?

        There seems to be an assumption that masks have no negative effect. Is that true? There is significant evidence (some of which I cite in the article) that there is a negative impact.

  8. There’s increasing evidence that taking Vitamin D3 daily by populations currently enduring winter conditions helps to maintain healthy immune systems, but there is very little said about that by the media or governments. Other major factors such as overweight and dark skin are also rarely mentioned. Shouldn’t we therefore have compulsory doses of Vitamin D and compulsory weight loss, or at least strong encouragement to do these things? If not, why not? I can’t understand the psychology behind such ignorance.

  9. Re:the wearing of masks “In other words it is psychological not science.”

    I am commenting due to my role as a school driver . My charges range from six to eleven years old. This is my sixth year in this position and between the beginning of August until the Christmas break I normally have the discomfort of at least three head or chest colds gifted to me by my young friends. This year with the COVID cloud hovering I wrote to parents asking kindly if they would supply a mask to each child as the children would be traveling in their usual confined space for the hour duration , each way. They all complied , with the exemption being made for two in our two special needs category. Before our Christmas break up I submitted this letter of appreciation to the parents with a little information which surprised even us.

    Dear Parent / Guardian ,
    As the term heads for a close on the 23rd, I would like to say how much we have appreciated your support in providing the children with face masks whilst travelling to and from school . While we acknowledge that masking of the face is uncomfortable for adult and child alike , the children have never complained despite the discomfort and communication problems arising , and have complied from the off.

    As a matter of interest , possibly co-incidence , pupil numbers have almost been at 100per cent in attendance on our bus since the start of term . We have recorded a very low absence rate since the start of the school term beginning in August , no pupil has shown cold , flu or Covid symptoms. While the bus is cleansed with an anti bacterial spray twice each day , we believe it has so much more to do with your support and the children’s co-operation and perseverance . We would also like to take this opportunity to wish all a very Happy and peaceful Christmas , and hopefully the prospect of a better year to come . Thank you

    I am no scientist , but I firmly believe that the little extra care ( which included the face masks) gave us that little advantage over COVID and the other bugs which have frequently caused us such irritation in the past.

  10. In Scotland now there is real evidence of an attack on religious liberties by our atheistic masters. Churches are non-essential so must close but off-licences are essential. Competitive contact sports are allowed but you can meet in a socially distanced way in church. Christians can’t meet in a church building but politicians can meet in Holyrood or Westminster and not even wear masks. If that’s not been discriminating, I don’t know what it. And every time the First Minister is asked questions about this she simply says ‘it’s necessary’ and despite being challenged several times she, or anyone else, has failed to cite one example of covid transmission having taken place in a church. This isn’t science based it’s ideologically and politically driven,

  11. I’m now able to speak from the dubious experience of being a victim of CV-19 which thankfully seems to have been a mild bout. I certainly am alive to the reality of there being a genuine public health crisis but the policy of lockdown – draconian social control- doesn’t seem to be all that effective. There may be something about mode of transmission that we don’t understand. But I’m sorry to say that I don’t believe much of the information we’re being bombarded with. I’m disappointed by the failure of the BBC to interrogate this information. The media line of attack appears to be to lambast the government for failing to impose even more severe restrictions or delaying too long. For me the last straw has been the official state of confusion over the Pfizer vaccine. We were warned repeatedly at the outset about the importance of adherence to the manufacturer’s instructions about the timing of the second dose: 21 days after the first. Now we’re told that doesn’t matter much and the vital thing is to ensure everybody is injected with the first dose. The second dose can wait for 12 weeks. Anyone who queries the scientific basis for this about turn is more or less accused of being pedantic. Our enthusiasm for “following the science” just as the Magi followed the star seems to be selective. The official guidance on masks seems to be equally flickering. I think it behoves us to walk circumspectly, observe hand hygiene and keep our distance. But a legal requirement to wear masks is to me the mark of a totalitarian state. At a practical level I do worry that it’s limiting the quality and quantity of air getting to my lungs as well as misting up my glasses. I do comply, or did when I was allowed out(!) but in shops I must say I couldn’t wait to get out into the fresh air. It’s definitely a chill factor for retail and another reason why Amazon and co are cleaning up.

  12. “she, or anyone else, has failed to cite one example of covid transmission having taken place in a church. This isn’t science based it’s ideologically and politically driven”

    John, try Arkensas (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6920e2.htm), Graystone Church West Virginia, Calvary Chapel San Antonio, Shincheonji Church of Jesus, Seoul. Two minutes on Google. They’re not making this up, it’s real.

    1. Thanks Geraint, but I’m talking about Scotland and UK where churches have been meeting for months, practicing social distancing and wearing masks – and there’s not been one demonstrated case of transmission. I never said they were making it up, simply that there is no evidence that meeting in church under these conditions is dangerous. I repeat, you are safer in church then in many places which have been allowed to remain open. This is discrimination against places of worship by an atheistic government.

  13. Here’s some evidence presented by Dr John Campbell, an expert on infectious diseases and nurse trainer. He makes videos to inform the public. He says that wearing a mask cuts down the number of viral particles you inhale (viral load), and while it might not stop you becoming infected, it will lead to mild or asymptomatic infections.
    https://youtu.be/DANEqOPcDwc

    I can recommend all his videos.

      1. David, is this paper ‘a proper scientific study on the use of masks in children’ or a call for a proper scientific study?

      2. I’ve been an avid watcher of Dr. John Campbell since you posted a link to his channel, David, and whilst he has expressed opinions about all things Covid, he always points us to his sources and challenges us to check things for ourselves. His opinions regarding masks appear to make sense though. He is also willing to change his mind when and if he finds new evidence and research. So I do think you’re being a bit hard on him now, and your dismissal of him here is bordering on the ad hominem.

        Keep taking the Vitamin D, folks! He hasn’t said much about that recently but an Open University programme broadcast on UK’s BBC2 TV this week ‘The Truth About Immunity’ supported Dr. Campell’s advice beautifully.

      3. Ad hominem is when you dismiss someone because of the people they are associated with etc. It does not apply here – given that I watched Dr John for a month – and took the vitamin D! However I noticed that when he spoke about Australia he authoritatively spoke rubbish – and that made me question his other comments….also I just got bored…

      4. “Ad hominem is when you dismiss someone because of the people they are associated with etc.” Not according to my dictionary. But that aside, is it right to dismiss Dr. Campbell simply because of something he said about just one country? He researches as many countries as he can, and forms his opinions according to his findings, so he can’t be right all the time. That said, I’m with you on the boredom point, I do tend to skip chunks of his videos.

  14. I did read it David including their conclusion ‘Our study provides the basis for a representative survey on which a precise benefit-risk analysis of mask wearing in children can be built.’
    And this, in the discussion of results is interesting:
    ‘The frequency of the registry’s use and the spectrum of symptoms registryed [sic] indicate the importance of the topic and call for representative surveys, randomized controlled trials with various masks and a renewed risk-benefit assessment for the vulnerable group of children: adults need to collecticely [sic] reflect [sic, on?] the circumstances under which they would be willing to take a residual risk upon themselves in favor of enabling children to have a higher quality of life without having to wear a mask.’
    Isn’t this saying that there has been no actual research involved?

  15. Hi David, I’m glad to see that you are wearing a mask when required to do so. It may be difficult to get conclusive ‘proof’ of the efficacy of masks, but the evidence is sufficient, in my judgement, to warrant the use of appropriate masks in various situations. Other measures, such as social distancing, are essential. As the BMJ article says, we should apply the precautionary principle. I do not accept the protests of those who see the imposition of mask-wearing and other restrictions as an assault on civil liberties.

    Here are a few websites I have found helpful:

    https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/369/bmj.m1435.full.pdf

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02801-8

    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS2213-2600(20)30352-0/fulltext

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-mask/art-20485449

    https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-07-08-oxford-covid-19-study-face-masks-and-coverings-work-act-now#

    1. Thanks Donald – I have read these – apart from the nature one. I agree that the wearing of ‘appropriate masks’ in various situations is correct. My concern is with the view of masks as a cure all for everything and as a political symbol. Wearing masks outdoors for example is ludicrous – as is wearing them in areas where there is no community transmission. I’m also concerned that people have not taken into account the harm that masks cause.

      Other studies I have read include the WHO, the Danish study and the German one on the effects for masks on children.

      I wonder how far the BMJ would be willing to take the precautionary principle? (They have lost a degree of credibility with me because of their view that ‘sex assigned at birth’ should be put on birth certificates – they are as political as any one!)….would they for example ban the selling of alcohol, reduce the speed limit to 5 mph…? Or encourage sex to be kept within marriage – these measures would save far more lives than masks!

  16. One has to read any text critically and I think this BMJ article is free from political bias. Sadly the BMA, the BMA and most other institutions in Britain have been strongly influenced by the LGBT+ campaign for ‘equal rights’ and hence this nonsense about ‘assigning’ sex at birth. Sex is observed at birth, except in the few cases of various types of intersex. This is recorded and should not be changed when someone decides to change his/her (their?) gender.

    With regard to selling alcohol and setting speed limits, a balance has to be struck between the various factors involved. There is no point in using a reductio ad absurdum as an argument. It has been shown that a car hitting a pedestrian at 30 mph is more lethal than at 20 mph. Sadly legislation is a blunt instrument that by itself cannot control people’s behaviour. While I think 20 mph or 10 mph limits are good in certain areas, they still do not prevent careless driving or stop pedestrians, or cyclists, from disobeying the highway code.

    I totally agree about sexual ethics. Let’s spend our energy on these big issues and not complaining about the inconvenience of following restrictions such as mask wearing, social distancing, ventilating crowded spaces, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: