If you took Facebook as gospel, you would certainly believe that wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus is causing divorces around the nation and pushing families to preemptively cancel Thanksgiving dinner out of fear of infighting.
The arguments that we’ve seen online have been vicious, to say the least, and give us the impression that this may very well the be issue of the year. (And that’s saying something during 2020).
But the truth of the matter is apparently much, much different.
Nearly three in four U.S. voters and a majority of Republicans support a mask mandate in their state, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds, an indication that the partisan divide over masks and facial covering requirements may be fading.
The poll, a survey of 1,991 registered voters conducted from July 17 to July 19, comes as governors across the country weigh implementing mask mandates as the virus surges.
72% of all registered voters—86% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans—support a mask mandate.
So, why is it that our social media feeds are filled to the brim with vitriol and angst when it comes to the subject of facial coverings?
It’s because we are hardwired as human beings with something called “negativity bias”.
The negativity bias, also known as the negativity effect, is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things. In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative. The negativity bias has been investigated within many different domains, including the formation of impressions and general evaluations; attention, learning, and memory; and decision-making and risk considerations.
Angry online interactions and arguments feed into this bias, and therefore grow far more exponentially than similar, positive comments. When someone complains about wearing a mask, those who disagree with them also fuel this fire, again on account of their own negativity bias.
So, for all of the rhetoric we see online about face masks, we must remember that social media is heavily skewed toward negativity and controversy, and that a majority of Americans simply don’t mind.
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