Why exactly is shaming considered a poor public-health strategy? And if it really doesn’t work, how else are people supposed to channel their frustration at those who flout pandemic safety guidance? Here’s what public-health experts, ethicists and journalists are saying.

As Dr. Marcus told NPR, there is a fine line between public shaming that makes people feel bad about risky behavior and more positive forms of peer pressure that motivate them to take precautions. For example, some psychologists suggest that instead of confronting people for not wearing a mask from a place of self-interested indignation, you might emphasize how wearing a mask helps protect others.

“The initial research we’re seeing on persuading people to ‘socially distance’ suggests that messages framed in that way tend to be the most effective,” says David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University. Such conversations may also be more effective with people you know, according to Aziza Ahmed, a health law professor at Northeastern.


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