Governments across the world have implemented restrictive policies to slow the spreadof COVID-19. Mandatory face mask use has been a controversially discussed policy,among others, due to potential adverse effects on physical distancing. Using a random-ized field experiment (N=300), we show that individuals keep a significantly larger distancefrom someone wearing a face mask than from an unmasked person. According to an ad-ditional survey experiment (N=456), masked individuals are not perceived as being moreinfectious than unmasked ones, but they are believed to prefer more distancing. This resultsuggests that, in times where mask use is voluntary, wearing a mask serves as a social sig-nal for a preferred greater distance that is respected by others. Our findings provide strongevidence against a potential negative effect of masking on physical distancing, suggestingthat mandatory masking would indeed be effective. However, as the social signal frommasks may become diluted under a universal masking policy, the observed positive effectof masks on distancing may weaken under mandatory masking.
Epistemonikos ID: 2ce86ff6f63b8924e7331939b7438f5f21f4c803
First added on: Nov 10, 2020