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  • Janae McKenzie

How my cognition piece made me re-examine my own actions

My longest and most-detailed piece so far involved examining why some people won’t wear masks. The question baffled me from time to time, and I’ll admit I often gave the answer of “they’re stupid” or “they don’t care about others”. Writing and researching for this story allowed me to give more nuance to my explanation.


It turns out, the truth was a complex mix of different cognitive processes, ranging from identity signaling to threat perception. I suspected politics played a role, and this was also the case, but it helped to view it from the perspective of a group facing defeat rather than blatant and proud disregard for others.


The story honestly helped me re-examine some of my own actions. While I’m not spending time in crowded areas like bars or restaurants, I’ve been in situations with a small group of friends where one of them takes off their mask and, out of fear of seeming like the odd one out, I take off mine even if that wasn’t my first instinct. I’d justified this decision to myself by avoiding thinking about it, but when I spoke to Dr. Warner about how social norms affect decision-making, I heard myself reflected in his words.


Suddenly, I wasn’t on this high and mighty pedestal anymore. The people I’d scoff at as I passed them walking down the street or the groups in restaurants I’d roll my eyes at weren’t so much…lesser. It’s weird to think my own journalism can change my perception of things, but I suppose if I’m not learning then why would I be at school for journalism?


The story can be read here.

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