For the first few hours, everything went to plan. Then, one of the kids got up to show off his Pokémon cards, walking from person to person and breaking the six-foot rule in the process. No one, however, said anything. Soon after, the sun set and the temperature dropped, and one of the hosts suggested that they make a fire and move down to the lawn.

“At that point, it just somehow morphed into a regular party, and nobody kept any distance anymore,” recalls Karen, who has otherwise been very careful throughout the pandemic. Since March, she has been ordering curbside groceries to avoid shopping indoors; she hasn’t eaten inside a restaurant; she hasn’t been to the gym or taken her kids to a playground. Yet Karen didn’t speak up when she realized the party was suddenly breaking all the rules she’d been so carefully following.

Why do we ignore our conscience when others are around? First, we don’t want other people to judge us for overreacting or being disruptive. We also don’t want to make other people feel bad. If Karen had spoken up when her friends began mingling, they might have considered her a prude, or they might have felt embarrassed for being called out. “We don’t like to do anything that could rend social harmony,” says David Dunning, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan who studies decision-making and misbelief.

It doesn’t help that people with Covid-19 can be asymptomatic, adds Joshua Ackerman, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan who studies how people respond to threats. We rely on sensory cues when it comes to assessing people’s health — if we see people coughing or sneezing or otherwise looking ill, we know to keep our distance. If they look healthy, on the other hand, we tend to assume they are, because their appearance “doesn’t trigger that evolved psychology of disease avoidance,” he says.

Read the full article at elemental.