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November 17, 2021 Wednesday 01:12:48 PM IST

Will a mask hide emotions?

Parent Interventions

Little Anna is hesitant to go to school wearing a mask. She tells her mother “Mama, I don’t want to go to school wearing a mask. I can’t see my friend and teachers’ faces properly, I cannot see them smiling”. Her mother replies, ‘Anna my darling, you don’t worry. A mask does not hide your feelings and emotions. It helps you to stay safe. You will really love to go to school wearing a mask.” Little Anna was relieved.

This is the story of every single child who is getting ready to attend classes during the time of the pandemic. There are many aspects of the pandemic that has hurt a child's development. The social isolation they have had from peers when they had to stay at home from school or problems within the family are certain examples that child psychologists observe. When they attend school after a long time there arises some concern that the face masks used at school during the pandemic may be hurting younger children's development. 

A recent research study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that kids were able to accurately recognize the emotions of people who wear a mask. For this study, researchers from University Hospital Lausanne in Switzerland showed 90 pictures at random to nearly 300 children ages 3 to 6. The photos showed actors who expressed joy, anger, or sadness. Kids described the correct emotion more than 70% of the time when the actor was maskless and got it right more than 67% of the time when the figure wore a mask.

For language processing, it is important for kids to learn to lip read, but it is clear from the research that a mask is not going to hurt a child's development and that little kids can probably still make reasonable inferences about other people's emotions. It can be concluded from the study that masks are probably at the bottom of the list of things to be concerned about the child’s development.