Think of two items. They can be emotions or events. We’ll call them “X” amd “Y”.
Scientist 1 hypothesizes that X affects Y. This might be expressed in mathematical terms as Y = AX + E, where A is a coefficient representing the effect of X on Y and E represents random variation or noise.
The model is simple and all the effects are in one direction. This is called a recursive model, and they are quite rare in the natural world.
Why is that? Well nature is messy. if I color my hair orange, is it because I want to copy someone who has done that, or because I have a natural affinity toward orange, which makes me like what that other person has done? This takes us into the world of “nonrecursive models.” X cam affect Y, but Y can also affect X. These kinds of models are relatively common.
What does this have to do with Covid?
An research report in Medical News Today argues that articles on Covid conspiracy theories make people who read them more reluctant to take safety measures (e.g., masking). Whether this leap of faith is in the reporting of the research or in the research itself, I can’t really tell. This is a pure recursive model.
The alternative view is this: a person who is against wearing a mask reads an article saying that masks are part of some conspiracy. He’s willing to read the article because it appears to agree with his preconceptions. After reading the article, he does what he was going to do anyway. Did the article actually do anything? That’s the nonrecursive version.
Most probably, the single worst question in public opinion or advertising research is “did viewing this change your opinion about [the subject]?” Most of the time, the honest answer is probably “very little”, due to self-selection of who looks at the item.
In my case, I don’t believe in conspiracy theories and I don’t read about them. If I want to read fantasy, there’s a lot better material out there.
Were it not for the risk to others, whether a person wants to wear a mask or not wouldn’t bother me. If the person gets sick, is hospitalized, has a financial crisis and possibly dies, leaving his family is a bind — well that’s his problem. Well it would be, if not for the risk to others. The person who chooses not to wear a mask actually may kill or financially harm other people, and that’s not acceptable.
A better solution would be to make anti-maskers criminally and financially responsible for any damage they cause. If you have Covid, don’t wear a mask, and someone comes into contact with you and subsequently falls ill, you own their medical bills. What if they die?
How about Mars as a penal colony? I’m sure Musk needs some help digging foundations for his buildings there. The penalty for manslaughter by not wearing a mask would be having to wear a space suit for the rest of one’s life. Seems fair.