Face Masks Increase Compliance with Physical Distancing Recommendations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Governments across the world have implemented restrictive policies to slow the spread of COVID-19. Mandatory face mask use has been a controversially discussed policy, among others, due to potential adverse effects on physical distancing. Using a field experiment, we show that individuals keep a significantly larger distance from someone wearing a face mask than from an unmasked person. According to an additional survey experiment, masked individuals are not perceived as being more infectious than unmasked ones, but they are believed to prefer more distancing. This result suggests that people maintain larger distances to respect the perceived preference of masked individuals. These findings provide evidence against a potential negative effect of masking on physical distancing, suggesting that mandatory masking would indeed be effective.
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