As a result of swirling conspiracy theories surrounding the legitimacy of COVID-19 and people’s disregard for the safety and well-being of others, the simple action of wearing a mask has somehow become one of the most polarizing subjects in America. In a pandemic impacting people worldwide, American citizens are among the only ones in public outcry about CDC-mandated mask-wearing and social distancing regulations being a “violation of their rights.”

It is widely thought that the main culprit for so many U.S. citizens’ refusal to adhere to safety regulations stems from the U.S. being an individualist country, where people generally navigate through life focused on themselves above all else, as opposed to countries with over-archingly collectivist mindsets, which have notably done a significantly better job of containing the virus and stopping the spread.

Nearly six months into the pandemic, the U.S.’s infection rate remains the highest in the world, with roughly 40,000 new cases cropping up each day. While other countries are slowly returning to normalcy and Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, even holding a pool party with thousands of attendees last month, there is still no end in sight for U.S. citizens yearning to get out of the house and back to the shake of things. This is largely due to the percentage of U.S. citizens who have decidedly exempt themselves from social distancing rules and continue to attend large gatherings and not wear masks despite rules against doing so

anti mask study

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In a recent study of nearly 1,600 people in Brazil, which trudges behind the United States in second place for highest reported number of COVID-19 cases, researchers found that people who demonstrate antisocial traits such as callousness and risk-taking behaviors are less likely to comply with safety measures. 

The study highlighted the differences in thinking between participants who demonstrated high levels of empathy and were thus likely to comply with health and safety measures, and those with low empathy, who were likely to disregard safety recommendations and feel no remorse for doing so.

“These traits explain, at least partially, the reason why people continue not adhering to the containment measures even with the increasing numbers of cases and deaths,” the report’s authors wrote.

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a lack of consideration for others and even a tendency to knowingly put others in harm’s way without feeling an inkling of contrition. 

“Our findings indicated that antisocial traits, especially lower levels of empathy and higher levels of callousness, deceitfulness, and risk-taking, are directly associated with lower compliance with containment measures,” Professor Fabiano Koich Miguel, one of the study’s researchers, told the Daily Mail. “We cannot state that if a person chooses not to wear a face mask, the only reason is because they are a sociopath. Although this is possible, there are likely other factors involved,” he added.

While this study certainly does not mean that every person who disregards COVID-19 safety precautions is a sociopath, it does shed insight into the link between Antisocial Personality Disorder and the apathetic behaviors demonstrated by those who do unapologetically engage in these practices.