2. Be a role model
Unfortunately, there will always be people—like that runner we encountered—who are tempted to forego protections, especially the longer the risk period lasts. For those who are at less risk of serious illness, the temptation may be even stronger.
Researchers who study cooperative groups call these folks “free riders,” because they take advantage of others’ cooperative behavior to benefit themselves. For example, they may decide that with everyone else staying at home or wearing masks in public, they can safely go outside mask-free with little chance of infection.
Unfortunately, “free riders” can poison cooperative action. After all, being “good” comes at a cost of personal freedom, and, especially in a more individualistic society, that’s a hard lift. To see other people flaunting the rules could make compliant people feel they are being taken advantage of.
How to discourage free riders and make compliance the norm? Again, the science of cooperation provides some answers, according to another research paper.
As one of the paper’s coauthors, Lehigh University psychologist Dominic Packer, argues, we’re subtly influenced by the behaviors of those around us. So, if we are exposed to people who are generally adhering to recommended guidelines, we are more apt to adhere to them ourselves, and that behavior can spread in a community.
“When we leave our own homes, we are looking around and noticing if other people are wearing a mask or showing up to grocery stores and waiting in lines, and we’re using that to inform us about how much other people are listening to the CDC and thinking it’s a good source of information,” says Packer.