To mask, or not to mask, Alice and Bob’s dating dilemma

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Face masking in current COVID-19 pandemic seems to be a deceivingly simple decision-making problem due to its multifaceted nature. Questions arising from masking span biomedicine, epidemiology, physics, and human behaviors. While science has shown masks work generally, human behaviors (particularly under influences of politics) complicate the problem significantly given science generally assumes rationality and our minds are not always rational and/or honest. Minding minds, a legitimate concern, can also make masking legitimately confusing. To disentangle the potential confusions, particularly, the ramifications of irrationality and dishonesty, here we resort to evolutionary game theory. Specifically, we formulate and analyze the masking problem with a fictitious pair of young lovers, Alice and Bob, as a Sir Philip Sydney (SPS) evolutionary game, inspired by the handicap principle in evolutionary biology and cryptography figures in computer science. With the proposed ABD (Alice and Bob’s dating dilemma) as an asymmetric four-by-four strategic-form game, 16 strategic interactions were identified, and six of which may reach equilibriums with different characteristics such as separating, pooling, and polymorphic hybrid, being Nash, evolutionarily stable or neutrally stable. The six equilibrium types seem to mirror the diverse behaviors of mask believers, skeptics, converted, universal masking, voluntarily masking, coexisted and/or divided world of believers and skeptics. We suggest that the apparently simple ABD game is sufficiently general not only for studying masking policies for populations ( via replicator dynamics), but also for investigating other complex decision-making problems with COVID-19 pandemic including lockdown vs . reopening, herd immunity vs . quarantines, and aggressive tracing vs . privacy protection.

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  1. SciScore for 10.1101/2022.04.14.22273886: (What is this?)

    Please note, not all rigor criteria are appropriate for all manuscripts.

    Table 1: Rigor

    Ethicsnot detected.
    Sex as a biological variablenot detected.
    Randomizationnot detected.
    Blindingnot detected.
    Power Analysisnot detected.

    Table 2: Resources

    No key resources detected.

    Results from OddPub: We did not detect open data. We also did not detect open code. Researchers are encouraged to share open data when possible (see Nature blog).

    Results from LimitationRecognizer: We detected the following sentences addressing limitations in the study:
    The limitations of such attempts can be particularly serious when the scientific reasoning is based on incomplete information or knowledge. It is for this reason, we caution that the results of ABD modeling such as the equilibriums should only be used as explanatory/exploratory purposes at strategic level, rather than used for advising public at tactic levels. We argue that the methodology we used to model masking behaviors with the ABD game should also be inspirational for exploring other public health policies (measures) such as social distance, lockdown/reopen and quarantines (abbreviated as DLQ hereafter). These measures are designed to physically contain the spreading of pathogens by isolation (distancing or containment) and can be characterized as either “open vs. closed”, i.e., without vs. with enforcing isolation (containment) measures such as DLQ. Obviously, masking also belongs to isolation. According to the metapopulation (i.e., population of local populations) theory (Citron et al. 2021, Ma 2020), infectious diseases such as COVID-19 can be modeled as a metapopulation of infectious pathogens, i.e., consisting of many local (regional) populations of pathogens (carried by human hosts) such as the local or regional outbreaks of COVID-19 (e.g., outbreaks in different countries). Also according to classic ecological theories (Hilker et al. 2009, Friedman et al. 2012, Ma 2020), the extinctions of local populations can be common events, although the global metapopulation...

    Results from TrialIdentifier: No clinical trial numbers were referenced.

    Results from Barzooka: We did not find any issues relating to the usage of bar graphs.

    Results from JetFighter: We did not find any issues relating to colormaps.

    Results from rtransparent:
    • Thank you for including a conflict of interest statement. Authors are encouraged to include this statement when submitting to a journal.
    • Thank you for including a funding statement. Authors are encouraged to include this statement when submitting to a journal.
    • No protocol registration statement was detected.

    Results from scite Reference Check: We found no unreliable references.

    About SciScore

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