The study reveals that covering faces around children would not help mask emotions

25 December 2020 16:48 IST

Washington [US], December 25 (ANI): according to a new study, the proliferation of face coverings to keep Covid-19 under control does not prevent children from understanding facial expressions.
According to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it is quite easy to understand the emotions of the people around. Just by taking all the hints, they are falling, on purpose or not. However, when people cover some of their facial expressions, they eliminate some of those cues.
“We now have this situation where adults and children have to interact all the time with people whose faces are partially covered, and many adults are wondering if this is going to be a problem for children’s emotional development,” says Ashley Ruba, postdoctoral researcher. at the UW-Madison Child Emotion Lab.
The researchers showed more than 80 children, ages 7 to 13, photos of faces that showed unhindered sadness, anger or fear, covered in a surgical mask or wearing sunglasses. The children were asked to assign an emotion to each face from a list of six labels. Faces were slowly revealed, with jumbled pixels from the original image falling into their correct 14-step position to better simulate how real-world interactions may require putting things together from odd angles or fleeting glances.
Children were right about uncovered faces up to 66% of the time, well above the odds (about 17%) of guessing a correct emotion among the six options. With a mask on the street, they correctly identified sadness about 28% of the time, anger 27% of the time, and fear 18% of the time.

“Unsurprisingly, it was more difficult with parts of the face covered. But even with a mask that covered the nose and mouth, the children were able to identify these emotions at a better rate than the case,” says Ruba, who published the findings today in the journal PLOS ONE with co-author Seth Pollak, a UW-Madison psychology professor.
Variations in results reflect differences in how emotional information is conveyed from the face. Sunglasses made anger and fear difficult to identify, suggesting that the eyes and eyebrows are important for those facial expressions. Fear, often confused with surprise, was also the hardest thing for children behind a mask to spot, which may have complicated things by covering up clues like the shape of the surprise mouth. : OR
If children can do better than guess emotions even with a mask in place, they are likely to do even better in real life situations.
“Emotions aren’t just transmitted through your face,” Ruba says. “Vocal inflections, how someone positions their body and what’s going on around them, all that other information helps us make better predictions about what someone is feeling.”
It all adds up to children’s growth in their emotional abilities, even though some of their interactions with others happen through face linings.
“I hope this resolves the nerves,” says Ruba. “Children are really resilient. They are able to adapt to the information that is provided and it doesn’t appear that wearing masks will slow their development in this case.” (ANI)