Mask Wearing: Young Men and Older Women P1

I was unchaining my bike in the centre of Glasgow some weeks ago – before mandatory mask-wearing was imposed – and was struck by how few people were wearing them. Trundling my bike along the pedestrian precinct (I could’ve cycled but I’m not obnoxious) following my accustomed route to the train station, I decided to conduct an ad hoc count. The streets were fairly busy that weekday afternoon, at least they seemed so to me after Glasgow being a ghost town during early lockdown, and I knew I couldn’t keep up with all the passersby. So I decided to sample the population of people on the street (along my route, in that part of Glasgow, at that time, on that day) by counting only every third person who happened to walk towards me so directly that one of us had to change direction, as I went along. Starting at a bike rack near Central Station and heading to Queen Street Station via George Square, this sample turned out to be around 24, of which about 5 were wearing masks. So, the mask-wearing fraction of the sample was roughly equivalent to the ‘less than a quarter’ of the survey population that I’d estimated at the start.

A social scientist would no doubt rate my methodology somewhere between ‘Inadequate’ and ‘Rubbish’. A kind description of this wee survey, clearly open to confirmation bias and neither blinded nor representative in any sense, would be ‘anecdotal’. It didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the two demographic groups that were, overwhelmingly wearing masks. Not just in my tiny fraction of 5 out of 24, but all over George Square, and Queen Street Station, when I simply stopped and stared.

Now. Just stopping and staring will get you a lot of points if you can pass it off either as a preliminary to ethnographic ‘thick description’ or as meditative za-zen. However, in terms of data gathering, it’s, well, definitely Rubbish. So I invite you to replicate my staring, in a more controlled manner (open to other selective errors, it’s true) for yourselves. Here’s how:

  • Look at a clear photo of an unrelated crowd of people, perhaps in the background to a single person, taken in recent months but before mandatory masking was imposed.
  • Draw a grid like this one and enter a vertical line in groups up to 4 then one diagonally across the group for 5 (the gate system, because it looks like one) or just a number in each box.



Masked               Unmasked


Masked               Unmasked

Older Teen/ Early Twenties
Young Adult
  • See how your result compares with mine. (Don’t click HERE to find out, until you’ve done your homework.)
  • You can let me know your findings on either Instagram or Twitter; I’m (at)gumptionology on both.

(Thanks to Mikhail Denishchenko for releasing his image Corona Virus into the Public Domain.)


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