Face Masks Do Not Affect Children's Emotional Learning [Expert Explains]

Photo: (Photo : August de Richelieu from Pexels)

A psychology professor explains that face masks do not affect children's emotional learning and the way they communicate.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, people's facial expressions are limited. The twitching of the lips or the scrunching of the nose are no longer as obvious as before.

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The world of face masks

Children who are growing up and are observing their surroundings are witnessing a world filled with people wearing masks. This circumstance is also one of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Also, children learn to keep their mouth and nose protected by wearing face masks. That is to avoid contracting or spreading the coronavirus. 

Because of this, developmental psychologist Dr. Vanessa LoBue is often asked by parents if face masks can affect children's emotional learning. That includes being able to respond and understand the emotions of others.

Dr. LoBue's answer: NO! 

She says that face masks do not affect children's emotional learning

In an article published in Psychology Today, Dr. LoBue explains how face masks do not affect children's emotional learning.

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Faces do not say it all.

According to Dr. LoBue, faces are not the single way children use to get information on what adults or their parents are feeling. Some of the ways children understand other people's emotions are:

  • someone's voice or tone
  • body language
  • verbal cues

Studies also show that when children are already twelve months old, they spend lesser time looking at their mother's faces to gather information.

However, it is still important to note that children do get clues or information through an adult's face. Scientists call this "social referencing." When children or babies see their parents' faces pose a negative or fearful one, they tend to not do the thing that they are supposed to do.

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Facemasks do not restrict emotional expressions

Although the mouth and nose are covered, experts say that there is no evidence that it is already impossible to make or read emotional expressions. That is why Dr. LeBou says that face masks do not affect children's emotional learning.

Also, a recent study shows that children are still able to identify the emotions of people even when their face is covered by a mask or sunglasses. The study was conducted by showing children ages seven to thirteen with photos of people showing different emotional expressions. The photos had versions where the people in the pictures were wearing mask, sunglasses, or were not covered as well.

Other studies have also shown that adults and children are also good at identifying emotions through the eyes. Even adults are doing a good job in identifying emotional expressions with a person's eyes compared to when identifying emotions through the whole face.

Dr. LeBou added that face masks do not affect children's emotional learning because humans do not only express emotions through the face.

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