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The Psychology of Not Wearing or Wearing Masks During Pandemic

 

Ever wonder why some people are vehemently opposed to wearing masks and quarantining, while some are insisting they be worn for the good of the group? Ever wonder why some people are prone to the propaganda of people taking their freedoms away and some are prone to the propaganda of following established social norms?

It turns out that it's not about conspiracy theories, fear, or fake news (although these things come as a result of it); it's really about the predominant psychological temperaments of 2 different groups. The issue of whether or not to wear a mask in society is likely based on whether a person's dominant temperament is affiliative or pragmatic. Read below to see what this means.

Affiliatives vs. Pragmatics

According to depth psychology and Dr. Linda Bairnes, there are 2 different groups of people -- the AFFILIATIVES and the PRAGMATICS. 

AFFILIATIVES (55% of people)

  • are focused on the needs of the group rather than the self
  • they check in with social norms & weigh out possibilities that are best for all
  • "what's the good & proper thing"
  • invite the inclusion of others; sharing is important
  • are agreeable and interdependent 
  • want cooperation and defined roles
  • are triggered by a lack of cooperation

PRAGMATICS (45% of people)

  • are more independent & individualistic
  • need to feel free to get what they want done  
  • value effectiveness and individual merit
  • focused on their own individual effectiveness more than the needs of the group
  • "what gets results"
  • they want freedom and autonomy
  • are triggered by things that prevent them from accomplishing their individual goals

Using this information, you can easily see how the pragmatics see this situation: since they are focused on independence, personal merit and excellence, and autonomy, they are more likely to see an executive order to wear masks and stay home as impeding their freedom and their ability to go to work and get things done. They see these rules as an impediment. They feel trapped and unable to express their individual needs, so they rebel. It's harder for them to see what's best for the whole group if they see their individualistic freedoms at risk. They are more focused on their individual needs, outcomes, and freedom. It's important to pragmatics to get down to business as soon as possible. They may see any impetus to this as illogical (why would anyone do that???) so they are more likely to see a hidden agenda behind it.

On the other hand, you can see how affiliatives are more likely to feel safe under a regime that imposes that everyone wears masks and re-emerges into the workforce after everyone can be assured a safe work environment. Their focus is on interdependence, the inclusion of all, and the good of the group. It's easy for an affiliative to understand that there are at-risk groups that need to be protected -- so they see the solution to that is more toward the idea of everyone wearing masks, social distancing, and businesses opening up only under strict regulations of a safe environment for these people. They are able to see that wearing a mask and distancing prevents those who may be asymptomatic but carriers of the virus to infect innocent and at-risk people. They have an idea of "what is right and just" and seek to implement this social order with rules. Affiliatives look for the cooperation and agreement of all and maybe angered by pragmatics who protest against these rules which they see as right and just. 

Real-Life Application:

If you look at the difference between Canada's and the United States' response to COVID-19, you need only look at their leader's disposition among these temperaments. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is an affiliative personality, so he is more likely to promote staying at home, doing so himself as an example of this, and opening up businesses only when there are hard safety measures in place for all employees. He's also more likely to subsidize those who can't work now due to these rules so that as many people as possible are taken care of. He may be seen by pragmatists as taking away their freedoms and individual rights (they don't understand why anyone would implement these policies that inhibit their personal goals).  Justin Trudeau also often reaches out to collaborate, share with, and talk to other world leaders, a highly affiliating tendency of interdependence and collaboration.

President Donald Trump is a pragmatic personality. He focuses on putting people back to work as soon as possible and his team has been photgraphed not wearing masks or carrying out much social distancing, probably because he sees the logic of testing people often in his team and he may feel the data around the virus is more hyped than he believes. Again, most pragmatists are focused on their individual goals, freedoms, and needs, so this pertains only to his staff. Perhaps he is not thinking about all the people his staff interacts within their lives as well or all the other people who may not agree with this stance and not feel comfortable going to work until certain measures are in place. He may be seen by affiliatives as selfish and not caring about others' needs. Donald Trump also may be more prone to keep discussions isolated to the US, as pragmatists are highly independent and less likely to reach out for agreement with others. 

Moving Toward A Better World

If we want to establish peace in this world, we cannot see one side or the other as wrong. It's simply different, and a bit unfamiliar. But the insights of both are needed to create the best world. However, we need to make sure the actions of one group is not alienating the actions of another. Response to this pandemic has created one of the most divisive environments of the modern world.

As Empaths, knowing how affiliatives and pragmatics think is a powerful tool to step into the shoes of others, understand their model of the world, and react with openness and love. That means: not focusing how our beliefs divide (they are bad, we are good, they are wrong, we are right), but instead, "how can we help... with anything?"  With this mode of communication, we are able to work together to bring a more peaceful, mature, and sustainable result. But it only works if both sides lay down their weapons in love & understanding. And it only works if we focus on how we can help others instead of how "right" we are.

Using what you just learned about affilatives and pragmatics, what new insights can you gather about what's happening in the world today?  Can you see more clearly how leaders run their countries and what is important to them? Can you also see what's happening in your company, group, or household?

Leave a comment below to let us know how can you use knowledge of the Affiliative or Pragmatic temperaments to better relate to others.

 

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