No, Face Masks Aren’t Dehumanizing

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Wearing facial coverings has become a key element in the fight against COVID-19. However, deep partisan divisions have arisen over the adoption of face masks, with Democrats more supportive than Republicans in the United States. Among opponents, a common argument is that facial coverings serve to dehumanize the wearer. Using an experimental study, I find no evidence, using a nationally diverse US sample, that face masks are dehumanizing, whether worn by a White or Black person. In addition, I test for moderation by partisanship, which shows a lack of dehumanizing effects and provides some suggestive evidence that face masks can humanize the wearer, for Democrats, though these effects are small. Under no circumstances do I find evidence that face masks dehumanize the wearer, even among Republican respondents.