An empirical and theoretical investigation into the psychological effects of wearing a mask.
A review of the literature shows that the wearing of a
mask has been hypothesised to bring about four main
psychological effects: disinhibition, transformation,
facilitation of the expression of aspects of the wearer's
Self, and various psycho-somatic changes. Several
different explanations have been proposed as to why each
of these effects come about.
Using theoretical and empirical research, the thesis
explores in detail the hypothesis that a mask can
disinhibit its wearer, and that this disinhibition comes
about because the mask-wearer feels less identifiable.
The findings show that a mask can significantly reduces
its wearer's feelings of identifiability, and that it can
also significantly reduce its wearer's public selfawareness
as a consequence of changes in attentional
focus. However, the empirical evidence suggests that the
mask's disinhibiting effect is limited to situations in
which an individual wants to behave in a particular way,
but inhibits that behaviour out of a concern with 'maskable'
facets of their public self. Concomitantly, the
findings suggest that, if an individual wants to behave
in a way for which they require 'mask-able' facets of the
public self, then the wearing of a mask may be
experienced as inhibiting.
This thesis also examines the hypothesis that a mask can
transform its wearer, and that this occurs through the
self-attribution process outlined by Kellerman and Laird
(1982). The thesis provides strong empirical support for
both these hypotheses, showing that the wearing of a mask
can make individuals feel less like their usual self and
more like the character represented in the mask. However,
the empirical evidence suggests that this latter effect
only occurs under conditions in which an individual is
specifically focused on their masked appearance.
A final chapter discusses the theoretical and applied
implications of these findings, with specific reference
to the use of masks in therapeutic practice.