Psychology Undergraduate Research Symposium 2021

Evaluating and Increasing Mask-Wearing on Penn's Campus

The project investigates the contributing factors associated with the choice to wear a mask consistently or not during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most attempts to increase mask-wearing during the pandemic have targeted correlates of mask compliance. The main purpose of our study was to learn about correlates of mask non-compliance and how to increase mask-wearing in non-compliant mask wearers.

The first study investigated the mask-wearing and risk-mitigating habits of undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. Participants completed surveys that identified various factors, such as moral values, political affiliation, health anxiety, health locus of control, self-efficacy, and fear of COVID-19, that might relate to their mask-wearing habits. In Study 1, we found that political orientation and moral values could predict mask compliance. Students who were less compliant with mask-wearing tended to be more conservative and placed more value on respect for authority and loyalty over harm reduction and fairness. Furthermore, men were less likely to comply with mask-wearing than women.

The second study was a follow-up intervention study that attempted to increase mask-wearing rates while in public, particularly of individuals less likely to wear a mask. In this study, we put together two different PSA videos that would appeal to these less compliant participants by featuring authority figures from within and outside the Penn community. One focused on health care authorities, while the other focused on non-healthcare leaders in the Penn community.  We randomly assigned 102 Penn undergraduates to watch one of the two PSAs. After taking the preliminary survey and watching their assigned PSA, participants completed longitudinal daily surveys for each of the next seven days where they reported their mask-wearing habits for each day.

When asked to assess how authoritative each PSA video was, conservative students rated the two videos to be equally authoritative, while liberal students rated the PSA with health professionals to be significantly more authoritative than the PSA with Penn leaders. In the week after watching either PSAs, conservative participants significantly increased their mask-wearing rates compared to baseline, while liberal participants did not. For conservatives, both PSAs were equally effective.  

Because liberal students are already near the “ceiling” in terms of mask-wearing, it is unlikely that a significant increase in mask-wearing among liberals will occur following an intervention such as ours. However, among conservative students, the baseline rate of mask-wearing was significantly lower than that of liberals, meaning that there is more room to move the needle on their mask-wearing behavior with PSAs like the ones we created. The two PSAs, which targeted conservative students by featuring several authority figures, had the same effect of increasing mask-wearing among conservatives. Interventions that encourage mask-wearing can target the values and beliefs associated with non-compliance in order to increase mask-wearing rates in previously non-compliant mask wearers. Our findings further explain why people decide to either wear or not wear masks, along with being used to promote health and well-being on campus.

PRESENTED BY
College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant
College of Arts & Sciences 2022
CO-PRESENTERS
Advised By
Dr. Melissa Hunt
Associate Director of Clinical Training
Join Tiffany for a virtual discussion
PRESENTED BY
College Alumni Society Undergraduate Research Grant
College of Arts & Sciences 2022
CO-PRESENTERS
Advised By
Dr. Melissa Hunt
Associate Director of Clinical Training

Comments

April 30 | 5:38 PM : by ebrannon@upenn.edu

Nice timely study!   15% is a pretty remarkable change in mask wearing that you observed!  What kind of scale were you using for mask wearing?  Were participants indicating the % of time they wear a mask in different situations?  It would be interesting to do this experimentally in Penn Buildings next year when masks will likely be required indoors and not outdoors.  You could play the PSAs in the lobby of campus buildings and then observe people's behavior.  Given that the dependent measure in your sample was self-report mask wearing do you think there were demand characteristics?  In other words, did participants expect that they should report more mask wearing after seeing the PSA?  Again, nice work with important implications! Liz Brannon

May 05 | 3:59 PM : by flanagan@upenn.edu

Given the sex differences that you mentioned at baseline, I was curious if there were sex differences in ratings of the videos for being authoritative and whether the videos had more of an effect on masking up in men vs. women.  Important research for public health -- nice job!

 

Best wishes,

Lori Flanagan-Cato

Hi Dr. Brannon! Thank you so much for your comment! It would be interesting to apply our findings to buildings on campus next year.

For both studies, participants completed daily surveys for seven consecutive days about their mask-wearing behaviors for each day. However, the daily surveys for the first study was a bit shorter than those for the second study. 

For Study 1, we asked participants whether or not they left their residence, along with whether or not someone visited their residence. They were prompted with more questions based on their answers to these questions. For example, if the participant left their residence during the day, we also asked where they went, whether they wore a mask, maintained a distance of 6-feet from others, went out with a group of people, if their company wore masks, the duration of time spent with others, and if their company was “in their pod.” If the participant received visitors at their residence, we asked how many people visited, the duration of the visit, whether the visitors wore a mask, the host wore a mask, and whether the visitors were “in their pod.” We used these answers to calculate a daily “risk-tally” which served to measure the participants’ risk behavior.

For Study 2, we asked participants where they went that day, whether or not they wore a mask, and whether or not they were around people who were not in their pod. We also asked for the overall percentage of time they wore a mask when they were supposed to that day. 

Participants did not learn about the purpose of the PSA videos until they were debriefed after completing the study. 

Please let us know if you have any other questions! 

Best,

Tiffany, Danny & Julie

Hi Dr. Flanagan-Cato! 

Thank you so much for your comment!

We found that conservative students overall (males and females) found both PSAs to be equally authoritative. Regardless of the video they watched, conservative participants significantly increased their mask-wearing rates, and the two different PSAs were equally effective at increasing their subsequent mask-wearing. 

Please feel free to reach out with any other questions!

Best,

Tiffany, Danny & Julie