New studies around wearing masks: Narcissism and super spreaders

Date:30 July 2020 Author: Adrian Brown

Months into the coronavirus pandemic, we all know the importance of wearing masks. Yet, there are still members of the public who refuse and some who don’t understand the risks.

To help combat this ignorance, scientists are using their studies to promote mask-wearing. Recent studies have uncovered some interesting insights and results.

Wearing Masks and ‘Super spreaders’ 

A new study by Swiss researchers found that masks are able to prevent the spread of coronavirus from reaching people who are in an enclosed space with an infected “super spreader”.

According to the study, some people may carry a much higher viral load than others. Being stuck in a room with someone with a high viral load (a super spreader) is much more dangerous.

“The implications of these findings for everyday life and the workplace are that individuals may be at risk of infection if they spend more than a few minutes in a small room with a person who is infected with Covid-19 and has a high viral load,”  researchers Michael Riediker and Dai-Hua Tsai, from the Swiss Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health in Winterthur concluded.

The super spreader releases a larger amount of the virus into the air. Dr Aaron Glatt, chair of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau said that this study clearly shows the importance of wearing a mask.

Despite the fact that super spreaders are uncommon, we often have no idea who is one and who isn’t.

“It boggles the mind why people are so resistant to wearing a mask,” Glatt said. “They have to understand they’re not wearing the mask for themselves. They’re wearing the mask for people that are unfortunately not capable of protecting themselves. They’re wearing the mask for everybody else in the world, not for themselves.”

Not wearing masks more likely in those with certain personality disorders

Another recent study found that people with ‘Dark Triad’ traits, including narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, are less likely to ensure they take preventative measures, including wearing masks.

“In general, personality traits are likely to be associated with mechanisms that facilitate adopting certain behaviours in relation to one’s health. One of those mechanism may be the beliefs that someone holds about their health. Put otherwise, traits may be indirectly linked to health behaviours through beliefs. One pertinent theoretical model, the health belief model, proposes five classes of such beliefs: perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, perceived barriers, self-efficacy, and additionally cues to action,” reads the study.

“Participants characterised by the Dark Triad traits were less likely to engage in preventive behaviour and more likely to hoard. Such findings are congruent with details about the fact that people who are high on these traits are more impulsive, focus on self-interest, and tend toward risk-taking. Participants characterised by collective narcissism were also more likely to engage in hoarding, but collective narcissism was unrelated to prevention,” they found.


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