Children Can Still Detect Emotions Despite Face Masks

The kids could recognize faces that were sad, angry or fearful despite being covered by masks.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Children have adorable ways of reacting to their environment. They are indeed very sensitive to their loved ones and pay close attention to their emotional states.


Reading emotions

Now, a new study is revealing that children can still detect people's emotions even when they are wearing masks, reported PsyPost

“To slow the spread of the COVID-19, both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have recommended wearing face coverings in public spaces," lead researcher Ashley Ruba, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin - Madison’s Child Emotion Lab, told PsyPost.

“This recommendation has led to speculation and concern by parents about the ramifications of mask wearing on emotion communication. We wanted to test if those concerns were well-founded.”

The research involved showing 81 children aged 7 to 13 years old photos of faces that were sad, angry, or fearful, some of which were wearing a mask or sunglasses. The researchers did find that the children were more accurate in understanding emotions when faces were not covered but they performed almost as well when reading faces with sunglasses or face masks.

Child development

The children were found to spot the correct emotion of uncovered faces as often as 66% of the time while they correctly identified sadness about 28% of the time, anger 27% of the time, and fear 18% of the time in faces with masks.

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“Children can likely make reasonably accurate inferences about other people’s emotions, even though people are often wearing masks. This should put parents’ minds at ease about how mask-wearing might impact this aspect of child development,” Ruba told PsyPost.

Still, the researcher has some practical advice to help parents and others when communicating with children during the pandemic.

“When you are trying to convey emotions to children (or anyone else) while wearing a mask, label how you are feeling, gesture, and use your voice. Children can use these cues to infer how you are feeling,” Ruba said.

The study is published in PLOS One.

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