New empirical paper on the problems of deciphering emotions in faces wearing masks (COVID-19

Wearing face masks is one of the essential means to prevent the transmission of certain respiratory diseases such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although acceptance of such masks is increasing in the Western hemisphere, many people feel that social interaction is affected by wearing a mask. In the present experiment, we tested the impact of face masks on the readability of emotions. Emotional reading was strongly irritated by the presence of a mask. We further detected specific confusion patterns, mostly pronounced in the case of misinterpreting disgusted faces as being angry plus assessing many other emotions (e.g., happy, sad, and angry) as neutral. We discuss compensatory actions that can keep social interaction effective (e.g., body language, gesture, and verbal communication), even when relevant visual information is crucially reduced.

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