Real covidiots! People who refuse to wear a mask have lower cognitive ability, new study shows


The term ‘covidiot’ is a coronavirus-era slang term for someone who ignores recommendations to limit the spread of the deadly disease – and a new study reveals what makes these people dismiss the warnings.

Researchers found that whether or not an individual decides to follow social distancing depends on how much information their working memory can store, which determines mental abilities such as intelligence.

Following a survey of 850 Americans, the team discovered that those with more working memory capacity were more likely to comply with recommendations during the early stage of the outbreak.

The findings suggest that policy makers need promote compliance behaviors, such as wearing a mask, based on individuals’ general cognitive abilities to avoid effortful decisions.

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Researchers found that whether or not an individual decides to follow social distancing depends on how much information their working memory can store, which determines mental abilities such as intelligence

Researchers found that whether or not an individual decides to follow social distancing depends on how much information their working memory can store, which determines mental abilities such as intelligence

The coronavirus began spread across the US earlier this year and when it gained more traction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a list of recommendations aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

The list includes wearing a mask and social distancing, which is keep six feet away from other people while in public.

Although recommendations sounds simple to follow, many Americans ignored the warnings and cases spiked across the nation.

Recently a team from the University of California set out to understand why some individuals chose to dismiss wearing a mask or social distancing and some easily complied.

The team found those with higher working capacity have an increased awareness of benefits and cost of social distancing and wearing a mask.

This part of the memory is involved in decision-making, reasoning and how one behaves, and it holds information for just a few seconds.

The amount of information working memory can hold briefly is predictive of many mental abilities such as intelligence, comprehension, and learning.

Weiwei Zhang, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, said: ‘The higher the working memory capacity, the more likely that social distancing behaviors will follow.’

‘Interestingly, this relationship holds even after we statistically control for relevant psychological and socioeconomic factors such as depressed and anxious moods, personality traits, education, intelligence, and income.’

Zhang and his team surveyed 850 Americans from March 13 through 15, which is the first two weeks the coronavirus was declared a national emergency in the US.

Participants first filled out a demographic survey, which included a set of questionnaires that captured individual differences in social distancing compliance, depressed mood, and anxious feelings.

The survey also examined personality variables, intelligence, and participants’ understanding about the costs and benefits of social distancing practice were measured also.

‘Individual differences in working memory capacity can predict social distancing compliance just as well as some social factors such as personality traits,’ Zhang said. 

‘This suggests policy makers will need to consider individuals’ general cognitive abilities when promoting compliance behaviors such as wearing a mask or engaging in physical distancing.’

Zhang and his colleagues recommend media materials for promoting norm compliance behaviors to avoid information overload.

‘The message in such materials should be succinct, concise, and brief,’ Zhang said. ‘Make the decision process easy for people.’

The study’s findings also suggest learning social distancing as a new norm requires an effortful decision process that relies on working memory.

‘The bottom line is we should not rely on habitual behaviors since social distancing is not yet adequately established in U.S. society,’ Zhang said. 

‘Before social distancing becomes a habit and a well-adopted social norm, the decision to follow social distancing and wearing masks would be mentally effortful. Consequently, we will have to deliberately make the effort to overcome our tendency to avoid effortful decisions, such as to not practice social distancing.’

In March, governor Ron DeSantis refused to close beaches amid the early outbreak, which resulted in massive crowds along the shoreline. Along with dismissing social distancing, many Floridians do not comply with the recommendation of wearing a mask

In March, governor Ron DeSantis refused to close beaches amid the early outbreak, which resulted in massive crowds along the shoreline. Along with dismissing social distancing, many Floridians do not comply with the recommendation of wearing a mask

Zhang expects the contribution of working memory will decline as new social norms, such as wearing a mask or socially distancing, are acquired by society over time.

‘Eventually social distancing and wearing face masks will become a habitual behavior and their relationship with working memory will diminish,’ he said.

The study seems to fall in line with how some of the US states have recently seem dramatic increases in coronavirus cases.

Florida currently has over 282,000 cases and state officials have fought to keep the region open when healthcare organizations urged for a shutdown. 

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In March, governor Ron DeSantis refused to close beaches amid the early outbreak, which resulted in massive crowds along the shoreline.

Along with dismissing social distancing, many Floridians do not comply with the recommendation of wearing a mask.

Florida policy groups are calling for DeSantis to require Floridians to wear face coverings and slams the governor for ‘intentionally manipulating the state’s data and misleading Floridians’ on the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, Orlando Weekly reports.

Another instance of not complying with CDC recommendations has been observed with US president Donald Trump, who refused to wear a mask since the beginning of the pandemic. However, over the weekend Trump strapped on a face cover for the first time

Another instance of not complying with CDC recommendations has been observed with US president Donald Trump, who refused to wear a mask since the beginning of the pandemic. However, over the weekend Trump strapped on a face cover for the first time

‘Florida has become a global hotspot for COVID-19, with more than 200,000 cases and 3,400 dead, due to the failed leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis,’ said the groups said in a video. 

DeSantis recently said: ‘If you can’t social distance, it’s recommended to wear a facial covering.’

‘We’ve just got to trust people that give ’em the opportunity to do the good things, make good decisions. I think that that tends to work better than to mandate this, mandate that.’

Another instance of not complying with CDC recommendations has been observed with US president Donald Trump, who refused to wear a mask since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, over the weekend Trump strapped on a face cover for the first time while visiting the Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington. 

‘I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,’ he said in April when the CDC began recommending the face coverings.

‘Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I just don’t see it.’ 



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