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Tyler Cowen

Why Americans Are Having an Emotional Reaction to Masks

Face coverings can change the way we behave with each other. 

The U.S. will need a while to get used to this. 

The U.S. will need a while to get used to this. 

Photographer: Mark Makela/Getty Images

While Americans still have not adopted mask-wearing as a general norm, we’re wearing masks more than ever before. Mask-wearing is mandated in California, and in many counties masks are near-universal in public spaces. So I have started wondering: Does wearing a mask change our social behavior and our emotional inclinations? And if mask-wearing does indeed change the fabric of our interactions, is that one reason why the masks are not more popular in the U.S.?

When no one can see our countenances, we may behave differently. One study found that children wearing Halloween masks were more likely to break the rules and take more candy. The anonymity conferred by masks may be making it easier for protestors to knock down so many statues.