Description: We are all wearing masks these days (or should be). I have posted previously about research suggesting that adults experience functional prosopagnosia (the lack of the ability to recognize people when one see’s them) when others are wearing masks covering their mouth and nose. A related, important question concerns how children manage socially when those around them wear masks. Specifically, we humans relay rather heavily on an ability to read other’s emotions by noticing their facial expressions and THAT will likely be more difficult with masks. What would your hypothesis be? To what extent, if at all, would the wearing of masks by those with whom they are interacting affect the ability of 7- to 13-year-old children to read the emotions of those they are seeing? Once you have your hypothesis (wager) in mind have a read through the linked article to see what research has to say on this question.
Source: Covering faces around kids won’t mask emotions, Science News, ScienceDaily.
Date: December 23, 2020
So, while mask wearing degrades the social information flow regarding emotions others are experiencing, the “middle-aged” children (7- to 13-years-old) still did better than chance at correctly reading emotion in mask wearing others. There is more to the flow of social information than the lower half of the face. As well, from a developmental perspective, if pre-teens can beat chance when they have only had developmentally recent experience with emotional reading of others wearing masks (since March/April 2020) then perhaps younger children’s emotional reading skills are not imperilled by recent events, at least to the extent that was raised early in the pandemic. Maybe the kids are all right, at least as far and the early steps in the development of emotional intelligence are concerned!
Questions for Discussion:
- Why might masks make it more difficult to read others’ emotions?
- Which emotions are harder, or easier, to read when others are wearing masks and why?
- Now, mask wearing DOES reduce emotional reading accuracy by around 50%. Given this what sorts of things might teacher, parents and other do to ensure that children still develop this important social/emotional skill?
References (Read Further):
Ashley L. Ruba, Seth D. Pollak. Children’s emotion inferences from masked faces: Implications for social interactions during COVID-19. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (12): e0243708 DOI: Link
Carbon, C. C. (2020). Wearing face masks strongly confuses counterparts in reading emotions. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2526. Link
Barrick, E., Thornton, M. A., & Tamir, D. (2020). Mask exposure during COVID-19 changes emotional face processing. Link
Ekman, P., & Oster, H. (1979). Facial expressions of emotion. Annual review of psychology, 30(1), 527-554. Link
Ekman, P. (1999). Facial expressions. Handbook of cognition and emotion, 16(301), e320. Link
Russell, B. S., Hutchison, M., Tambling, R., Tomkunas, A. J., & Horton, A. L. (2020). Initial challenges of caregiving during COVID-19: Caregiver burden, mental health, and the parent–child relationship. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 51(5), 671-682. Link
Hashikawa, A. N., Sells, J. M., DeJonge, P. M., Alkon, A., Martin, E. T., & Shope, T. R. (2020). Child Care in the Time of Coronavirus Disease-19: A Period of Challenge and Opportunity. The Journal of Pediatrics, 225, 239-245. Link