Coronavirus Pandemic

Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
Mandatory Masks

Why Is It So Hard for Some People to Wear Masks? Professor Explains

"Just get out and wear the mask at all times I would say.”

NBC Universal, Inc.

Mask requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic have become a topic of heated debate across the nation. While some people see wearing their masks as a necessary way to help stop the spread of COVID-19, others see mandatory mask requirements as an infringement on their freedom. Dr. Eric Zillmer, a Neuropsychology Professor at Drexel University, gave more reasons for some of the resistance to mask wearing in an interview with NBC10's Erin Coleman. He also shared advice on how to get over that reluctance. 


“It’s a new behavior,” Dr. Zillmer said. “It’s not internalized like we have seat belts where we have great compliance. We haven’t really been able to practice it. We’re kind of unfamiliar with when to put it on, when not to put it on.”


“COVID-19 is really an invisible enemy so there’s this abstract notion of this fight that we’re having against a pandemic where you can’t really see it,” Dr. Zillmer said. “So you’re relying on other people’s information.” 


“You’re covering part of your face which is sort of a sacred space,” Dr. Zillmer said. “It’s an important part of our identity. It doesn’t come naturally.” 


“I think the biggest part though is that we haven’t really been told exactly what to do. We’ve made decisions on and off,” Dr. Zillmer said. “So I think once you have a directive, once you don’t have to think about it, like put it on, you know, then it’s easier for us humans to follow rules.”


“When they studied this in the military with gas masks which are more invasive, even the military had problems being completely compliant,” Dr. Zillmer said. “Over 15 percent in the military exercise took them off because they’re uncomfortable.”


“We’re getting information mostly over the news,” Dr. Zillmer said. “We’re unable to process it with our friends socially because we’re socially isolated. It’s like filling out five crossword puzzles at once. We’re trying to fill in the gaps. What is going on? In fact, quite frankly, even the adults don’t know what’s going on.” 


“There’s been inconsistent rules from different directives, state, local and federal about whether we should go about this or how we should go about it,” Dr. Zillmer said. 


“I do think it’s much easier to take the cognitive decision process out of it,” Dr. Zillmer said. “To just wear them. Wear them at home in your living environment. Get used to them. And take out the idea that you have to make a decision of when to do it. Just get out and wear the mask at all times I would say.”

Contact Us