Since the pandemic hit and staff in schools started wearing face masks, there’s been some concern about whether young kids would be able to recognize emotions and how the masks might affect their development. But there’s no need to worry as a newstudysuggests preschoolers can still tell how people are feeling whether the person is wearing a mask or not.
Researchers from University Hospital Lausanne in Switzerland showed pictures at random to 300 kids between ages three and six. The photos showed people expressing anger, joy or sadness and in half of the images, the actors wore masks. The kiddos were asked to name the emotion and they got most of them right, with nearly the same accuracy for those wearing masks and those who weren’t, describing the correct emotion more than 70% of the time for maskless images and more than 67% of the time when the person wore a mask.
Ashley Ruba, a developmental psychology expert at the Child Emotion Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison points out that the face isn’t the most important way we communicate our emotions, it’s just one way, along with tone of voice, body posture and others. “The risks of contracting COVID from not wearing a mask are probably going to outweigh any slight issue about communication that kids might have,” she explains. “Masks are probably at the bottom of the list of things to be concerned about.”