Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Heather K. Terrell


As COVID-19 becomes endemic it is important to understand individual differences in motivation and adherence to mask wearing policies and recommendations. Mask wearing appears to be one way to protect communities, slow the spread, and save lives when COVID-19 rates spike in communities The main study aim was to examine how Moral Foundations Theory and Theory of Planned Behavior, specifically subjective norms, may explain individual differences in mask wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19. Understanding the psychological correlates of why and how often individuals wear a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19 can help community leaders, public health professionals, and medical experts construct better messaging to encourage more people to wear masks when needed. Results suggest a need for greater consistency in messaging and norms regarding mask wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the case of COVID-19, people were exposed to an injunctive norm that people should wear masks to protect themselves; however, for many people, descriptive norms were in conflict with the injunctive norm. There must be consistent messaging at every level when a public health crisis emerges—in this case, consistent messaging that brought injunctive and descriptive norms into alignment at every level of government would likely have resulted in higher rates of pro-mask wearing norms to slow the spread of COVID-19.