Face masks will become as instinctive as seatbelts, research predicts
Share article:
Share article:

Face masks will become as instinctive as seatbelts, research predicts

Credit: Blega/Laurie Dieffembacq

Despite fears that making face masks compulsory in schools will not work, the obligation will be accepted fairly easily and become as instinctive as wearing a seatbelt, according to recent brain research at the Free University of Brussels (VUB).

From Tuesday 1 September, all pupils from 12 years old and staff members in secondary education will have to wear a face mask at school. However, as they are not always comfortable and children may not wear them correctly, it is feared that the measure will not be adhered to very strictly.

“Learning new social habits, and automating them, takes time,” said professor Frank Van Overwalle of the ‘Social Brain Lab‘ at the VUB, which studies to social workings of the brain, in a press release.

His research into the functioning of the cerebellum (or ‘little brain’) led to the conclusion that this brain area fulfils social functions as well as motor and emotional functions. Not only do they predict the behaviour of others, but also our own most likely response to that behaviour.

Related News:


Over time, such action-response patterns become automated, allowing us to easily detect and correct any irregularities in these patterns. The longer people do something, the more instinctive it becomes, explained Van Overwalle.

“When we learn something, we also learn an automatic sequence that we are not aware of. Like our seatbelt: we get into the car, fasten the seatbelt and put the key in the ignition. We do not think about that anymore, we just do it,” he said.

“It does not happen on its own or right away, and in the beginning we still make mistakes. The cerebellum is responsible for this social learning, just as it is responsible for learning motor activities such as cycling.”

Usually, someone needs to take the initiative for such a change in behaviour in large groups, but Van Overwalle does not think that will be a problem in this case.

“As this initiative happens in a controlled classroom environment, there is no need to explain everything to the youths and children again. They will do that in school, and that is also where they control it,” he said.

In short, his research concluded, there seems to be a good chance that, although both pupils and staff will have initial problems with the obligation, it will soon become the “new normal” without major problems.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

Latest news

More women take police selection tests in Belgium
The selection tests to become a police inspector have more and more female participants, according to figures released by Interior Affairs Minister ...
‘Absurd’: all Brussels schools should have the same Covid rules
Several city councillors for education in Brussels are calling to abolish the "absurd" differences in coronavirus measures for Dutch-speaking and ...
Massive renovations for iconic venue in the heart of Brussels
Brussels concert hall Ancienne Belgique has announced plans to renovate the AB Café and the AB Salon and is looking for a contractor fit for the job. ...
Display of child’s room in Brussels raises awareness of foster families
An exhibit that features a fictitious child’s bedroom has been on display since Tuesday at the Place d'Armes in Namur, with the support of the ...
Test results show pupils have fallen behind in Flemish schools
Learning delays have been reported in almost all subject areas in Flanders since the start of the pandemic, a trend that continued in 2021, a ...
Belgium considers relaxing testing rules for UK travellers
At the next Consultative Committee meeting, Belgium will look into relaxing the testing and entry policy for travellers coming from the United ...
Jette libraries start giving plants away with books
Visitors to libraries in the Brussels municipality of Jette will soon be able to pick up a free plant along with a book, thanks to the new Plantotek ...
‘Do what you want, but do it as safely as possible,’ experts warn
As the daily number of new coronavirus infections exceeds 3,000 for the first time since May, infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe and ...
‘We’re running dry’: Brussels teacher shortage reaches critical levels
The teacher shortage in Brussels is affecting schools across language borders, according to Brussels’ Minister for Multilingualism and Dutch ...
New coronavirus infections above 3,000 for first time since May
The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has skyrocketed to the highest rate since the start of May 2021. Between 9 and 15 October, ...
Belgium in Brief: Getting To The Airport
When I saw the news of plans for a tram line and cycle path to connect Brussels' outskirts to the airport, my first reaction was sheer joy.  Let ...
EU should invest €5 trillion in climate plan, says State Secretary for Economic Recovery
The European Union must invest €5 trillion in its climate plan over the next decade to "retain its credibility as a political project," according ...