Author ORCID Identifier

Klucarova -

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Applied Psychology: An International Review





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The rapid spread of COVID-19 brought about an increased use of face masks among the general public. Focusing on disposable surgical masks in particular, this article examines consumer perceptions of and intentions toward social media influencers who wear such masks amid the pandemic. Drawing on the theory of product symbolism, this research experimentally demonstrates that masked (vs. unmasked) influencers remind consumers of highly competent healthcare professionals, leading in turn to greater competence inferences about and more favorable behavioral intentions toward these influencers. Additional analysis demonstrates that this effect might not hold for other groups of professionals who are considered relatively competent at the outset and/or whose profession is less reliant on external cues. Overall, this research suggests that apart from curtailing the spread of the pandemic, mask wearing might prove beneficial to certain groups of professionals, such as social media influencers, who have traditionally struggled to establish credibility. In a broader context, this research establishes mask wearing as a new form of nonverbal communication that war-rants further examination.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Do masks matter? Consumer perceptions of social media influencers who wear face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 71(2), 695–709, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.