How Behavior Change Can Influence Wearing of Masks

With all the discussion and debate about wearing of masks, I thought about the Influencer model and how it can be used to change behaviors.

A few years back, I shared how the Influencer model can be used to encourage people to bring their own reusable coffee cup to their favorite coffee shop. Watch my presentation below, if you want to learn more about this approach.

The Influencer model explains how six sources (focus areas) can be evaluated to help encourage new behavior change.

Let’s review the model, and discuss how you can increase mask wearing by coming up with activities and actions to address at least four of these six sources.

#1 Personal Motivation – Educating and motivating the individual to change. This is where most efforts are focused, on explaining why the change is important.

  • Masks protect others you care about, protects yourself, potential risks of getting the virus, how it creates a visual reminder about social distancing, success stories, will help us reopen the economy sooner, etc.

#2 Personal Ability – Training and validating they know how to make the change. This is another focus area, to provide a training class and assume that is all that is needed for the behavior to stick.

#3 – Social Motivation – Finding positive reinforcement for the change from people they trust and look up to.

  • Reminders and reinforcement from others (co-workers, family, friends) to wear a mask, along with people they respect (managers, celebrities, influencers, mentors, leaders, politicians). In addition, having people customize and show off their masks can make it fun.

#4 – Social Ability – Building a support network for getting questions asked and increasing engagement to hit a critical mass where the behavior becomes the norm.

  • Connecting with experts and resources to learn more, such as the CDC, local government websites, health experts, connecting them with people they know with expertise.

#5 – Structural Motivation – Finding ways to externally motivate them to do the behavior, either through “sticks” (enforcement) or “carrot” (incentives)

  • Not allowing people in areas without a mask, being thanked for wearing one, enforcement when not wearing (routine checks, audits, inspections), tracking of metrics on mask usage and tying the metrics to job performance or bonuses or pay, and showing how this effort impacts higher goals like death rates, absenteeism, illness, productivity, etc.

#6 – Structural Ability – Changing the physical space to make it easier to do the behavior, or harder to NOT do the behavior.

  • Making masks available at entrances, providing resources for where to order or obtain masks, easy to follow and read reminder signs at key areas, providing education handouts and pamphlets where masks are located.

If you’d like to learn more about the six sources of influence, check out this fun video showing how this approach was used to get kids to wash their hands.

Learn more about the Influencer model from Vital Smarts

Remember, for the behavior change to work, you need to implement at least four different sections of the Influencer model, not four items in one section. If you really want to get engagement, then try to implement ideas from each of the six areas.

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